King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Polygondwanaland
Released: November 17th, 2017
Stu Mackenzie – Vocals, Lead Guitar, Flute, Keyboards, Strings
Ambrose Smith – Harmonica, Keyboards, Synthesizer, Vocals
Joey Walker – Lead Suitar, Setar, Keyboards, Bass Guitar, Vocals
Cook Craig – Rhythm Guitar, Keyboards, Bass Guitar, Vocals
Lucas Skinner – Bass Guitar, Keyboards
Eric Moore – Drums, Percussion, Theremin
Michael Cavanagh – Drums, Percussion
Polygondwanaland is free. Totally free. In fact, King Gizzard want you to download their fourth album – THIS FUCKING YEAR – in myriad of different formats and make your own copies of it to sell/ share/ spread in general. It’s an absolute genius move that ensures a bottomless variety of vinyl pressings, track-orders, cover arts, bootlegs, knock offs, and complete free-trade wonderfulness between their insanely cultish fans – Gizzheads – and common-folk alike. Crowd funding and local indie wax pressers had already taken orders the world over, days before the album arrived. Heaps of them are giving much of the profits to various charities (bless).
Releasing four hugely differing, full length LPs amidst several sold out local and global tours in 2017 doubtlessly thrusts The Gizz to the top of the pile for earth’s hardest working and musically talented bands. These guys are a mind-shattering benchmark for creative perspicacity, strengthened with a face-melting live show so perpetually polished – despite the constant eruption of brand new material – that this reviewer is convinced these Melbournian-ish locals have unlocked a time portal with their unprecedented music; allowing several more hours in to every day through traversing between dimensions. Listen to this year’s output alone and feel your arguments to the contrary disintegrate under the blistering musical power of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.
Lead single ‘Crumbling Castle‘ opens the immersively brilliant POLYGONDWANALAND. It’s a mystical, slow-building psych-blues epic that sounds like the melancholic expressions of a middle-ages pagan armed with Frank Zappa’s entire back catalogue for inspiration. The song sets a fine precedent for an album that listens like a cleverly constructed amalgamation of every album King Gizzard has released in the last few years. The 60’s pop relaxation of 2015’s Paper Mache Dream Balloon, the jazzy time signatures of 2017’s Sketches of Brunswick East, the trackless rhythmic relentlessness of 2016’s Nonagon Infinity, the microtonal, ancient conjurings of (also) 2017’s Flying Microtonal Banana, and the lyrical stories and themes so strongly present in (also, also) 2017’s Murder of the Universe. These lads have so richly explored and stretched the boundaries of their own musical and thematic universe that it’s nearly impossible for all their new stuff not to be entirely self-referential. King Gizzard only sounds like King Gizzard anymore, and that’s a really, really awesome thing.
The album’s eponymous second track cruises upliftingly along on the burbling surface that is Gizz’s ever-deepening rivers of intertwining concept-driven song themes and stories. It opens in to the mouth of a swirling ocean, pulsing synth and clever guitar picking that spreads itself across the expansive and catchy ‘The Castle in The Air‘ and ‘Deserted Dunes Welcome Weary Feet‘. These back-to-back tracks will swallow you up in them, like several other water/ beach-themed tracks by King Gizz have in the past (see: ‘Open Water‘, ‘The River‘, ‘Willoughby’s Beach‘, etc.). ‘Inner Cell‘ – fittingly titled as the albums halfway point – sounds like a peculiarly fitting blend of King Gizzard and underrated 00’s electro-rock geniuses The Faint. Gizz front man Stu Mackenzie delivers slightly tense, staccato vocals over a somber bass and synth combination, which – intentionally or not – was a regular hallmark of The Faint when they weren’t flat out bringing highly danceable and cynical synth bangers to the table for a solid two decades. Gizz go easier on the jaunty keyboards, but the similarities are very present. Anyway, this song is great, and go listen to The Faint. They’re fucking brilliant.
A hugely 80’s synth warble that’d be at home in the middle of the Stranger Things intro opens ‘Loyalty‘ and ‘Horology‘; a back-to-back psych trip that skips along with whimsical aplomb. Mackenzie unleashes the exceptionally capable flautist within him, making sure Gizz’s trademark of deft musical ability is further exhibited on their 4th 2017 LP (there was already tubular bells earlier). Lucas Skinner’s trademark bass wanderings really come to the jazzy surface, then guitarist Joey does some more Mongolian throat singing, then there’s what I believe is a setar for a bit, and then ‘Tetrachromacy‘ seamlessly begins, Eric and Michael begin to really warm up on the drums, and we change gears once more… goodness gracious. Always on the hunt for new horizons both thematically and musically, Gizz employ that desire and curiosity here more so than any other track on POLYGONDWANALAND. We get our first – and very minimal – taste of Ambrose Smith’s mouth organ skills, dashes of cross-album hook repetition and recycling, more glass/ tubular bells, a lyrical querying of undiscovered colours near blue, flute throughout, and some seriously swift rolls and fills from the beguilingly synchronized actions of dual-percussionists Michael Cavanagh and Eric Moore (who also runs Flightless Records while seamlessly doing tandem drumming across some seriously complicated musical structures the world over… fucking hell).
The album expansively closes with the hypnotic and polysyllabic wanderings of ‘Searching‘; heavily 60’s stoner psych journey in to introspection, and finally ‘The Fourth Colour‘; a staggeringly large and complicated song that both drifts and turns corners like a mini-Magical Mystery Tour all of its own. It’s a rollicking album closer that – as always – leaves you wanting as much more Gizz as possible, as soon as possible. Here’s a hint; just put POLYGONDWANALAND on repeat all day and keep discovering.
If King Gizzard and the Lizard didn’t release another LP for a decade, their musical output within this year alone would still eclipse most (if not all) multi-millionaire, studio-backed, advertising-funded, marketing-think-tanked pop-star’s album releases by a wide margin. And they did it in their own houses, with their own equipment, under their own record label, while touring the world to sold out shows, running their own music festival, making half a dozen film clips, and personally sending you the merch and records from each release to save on overheads.
These dudes have destroyed the paradigm of big music studios and their greedy, selfish place in this new, independently driven musical millennium with this release more so than any of their previous efforts; their fans are actually allowed to freely profit from it. Gizz are living proof that you can DIY your way to the top of the pile if you work hard, smart, and have fun doing it. They run their own label, release their own stuff, tour themselves, and make staggeringly brilliant, uncompromising, and entirely unique music throughout it all. What time to be alive.
Long live King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Polygondwanaland tracklisting
1. Crumbling Castle
3. The Castle In The Air
4. Deserted Dunes Welcome Weary Feet
5. Inner Cell
10. The Fourth Colour