King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Gumboot Soup - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Gumboot Soup

by Kyle Kersey Rating:7 Release Date:2017-12-31
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Gumboot Soup
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Gumboot Soup

Those crazy Aussies actually pulled it off.

Some context: there are few bands providing as much hope to modern rock music as King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, a Melbourne based septet releasing some of the most wacked out rock fusions in the industry today. They’re perhaps the most prolific rock band of the past few years, having released thirteen full-length albums since 2012, rivaling the efforts of workaholic groups like Of Montreal and John Dwyer’s Thee Oh Sees (or The Oh Sees or Oh Sees or OCS or Orinoka Crash Suite but that’s neither here nor there). Included amongst those albums is 2016’s Nonagon Infinity, a blood-pumping taste of psychedelic garage rock that brought the group an abundance of attention. It was my favorite album released all year. That’s hard to follow up.

They did so in the most King Gizzard way: a five album run spanning through various genres and encapsulating the restless experimentation that has come to define the group over the past few years. It was the fulfillment of a promise frontman Stu Mackenzie made in an interview with Triple J in the summer of 2016, claiming “we’re actually working on four separate projects at the moment, which hopefully we can release next year some time”. Within a few months, four ballooned to five.

And on the final day of the year of our lord two thousand and seventeen, after four unique records, Mackenzie and crew made good on their promise with the digital release of Gumboot Soup. It’s an impressive achievement to be sure, the result of a relentless work ethic and commitment to their artistic medium. Yet, Gumboot Soup isn’t exactly the triumphant ending I was hoping for (nor is it the very Gizzard Christmas album I so heavily craved). Coming off the heels of the exceptionally proggy Polygondwanaland, it’s the first King Gizzard LP of the year where it feels like quantity might be overtaking quality.

Unlike the four previous releases, Gumboot Soup isn’t glued together by a concept, but rather acts like a buffet of varying styles, a smorgasbord of short jams and oddball tracks that didn’t quite fit into any sort of thematic framework. They aren’t B-sides, as Mackenzie has made sure to point out. But that doesn’t stop some of them from sounding like B-sides and outtakes.

Take “Greenhouse Heat Death” for example: a track that follows similar musical beats to the songs from Flying Microtonal Banana – i.e. meandering melodies showcasing newly acquired microtonal instruments – but lacks any sort of direction, instead aimlessly wandering around familiar sonic pathways. “The Last Oasis” is similar in this respect, repeating the warped jazz of Sketches of Brunswick East without any sort of energy. When I think of the standouts on Sketches, I think of the wildly imaginative and carnivalesque songs like “Tezeta” and “The Book”, not comatose elevator jazz.

However, as with any mixed bag, Gumboot Soup has some notable highlights, namely “I’m Sleepin’ In”, a three-minute groovy spaghetti western a la “Billabong Valley” featuring harmonica and a bouncy bass line. The opening track “Beginners Luck” also stands out amongst the track listing as well, following a drowsy, dreamlike story of a casino card game.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is “The Great Chain of Being”, which is possibly the heaviest track the band has released this year, truly worthy of being labeled a stoner metal tune. Mackenzie’s voice distorts into this guttural yell over thunderous, rolling guitars, making it the perfect foil to sleepy tunes like “Beginners Luck”, “The Wheel”, and “The Last Oasis”.

Meanwhile, “All is Known” reflects on the band’s more traditional pre-2017 garage rock sound of albums like Nonagon Infinity and I’m in Your Mind Fuzz. By contrast, “Superposition” is an entirely new sound for the band, with fluffy melodies and synthesized vocals. It’s as surreal as it is enticing, especially for a song ostensibly about quantum mechanics.

In the context of their wider discography, Gumboot Soup is King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard at their least consistent. In a way, it’s the perfect conclusion to the year, showing off the band’s different stylistic shifts all on a singular album, and there are more hits than there are misses. They’re still the strange, wacky bunch as before, they just sound a bit worn out. I guess writing, recording, and touring five albums in one year will do that to you.

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