When King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard premiered a certain track live earlier in the year whilst having the prestigious slot of supporting The Drones, it became apparent that whatever the collective had planned next was going to be something special. The track in point is Head On/Pill, the 16 minute cavalcade of sound that simultaneously crystallises both where King Gizzard are right now in terms of sound, and exactly what makes them so special.
Float Along – Fill Your Lungs is the groups second album of the year, following the February release of the ambitious self-described “spaghetti western audiobook” Eyes Like The Sky. The release of that album, which followed a very well received debut LP, proved that King Gizzard were not content to be a one trick pony. The same can be said about Float Along – Fill Your Lungs, an album that proves the band are constantly experimenting and pushing the boundaries of their sound, accomplishing the mean feat of putting out their best release to date.
Opening the album with a 16 minute long song is a bold move for any artist to do, and it comes in the form of the aforementioned Head On/Pill, nearly taking up the entire first side of the LP. The song goes through many transformations, beginning as a psychedelic slow jam before hurtling into the frenetic garage punk goodness that the Gizz are so notorious for. From this point on, the song locks into a groove that doesn’t let up, and repeated listening uncovers little melodies and nuances not picked up on the first listen. Amongst the feedback, a welcome addition to the band’s sound that features prominently throughout the album is the sitar. Whilst I never thought I’d write this in a review, the sitar fucking kills. Harking back to the Beatles circa the Revolver era, the sitar is utilized to great effect, creating a new dynamic for the band. Opening with a 16 minute track is a ballsy move, but pays off and truly belongs at the beginning of the album. It almost forces the listener to listen to the track, rather than something tacked on the end they can skip over. Head On/Pill sets the bar high for the rest of the record.
Up next comes the second single off the album, I’m Not A Man Unless I Have A Woman, further proof of the evolving sound of King Gizzard. The song locks into a foot tapping bass groove from the get go, and sets up a very soul-inspired tone, something that permeates the whole album. We are also treated to a duet on this song, between main lead singer Stu McKenzie and Ambrose Kenny-Smith. The two trade lines to understated amusing effects, with Ambrose’s scratchy high vocals playing the part of the female, stating that “I’m not a woman, unless I have a man” before both joining forces in the chorus. Already the lead singer of garage blues outfit The Murlocs, Kenny-Smith’s vocals are welcomingly more prominent on this album than past releases. Following suit in challenging expectations is the almost alt-country gospel standout God Is Calling Me Home, the boys forming a powerful back up chorus and assisting McKenzie with the sinister lyrics. The song explodes, resulting in a number that is catchy as fuck, and has all the ingredients to stay stuck in your head for weeks, which wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
The Ambrose Kenny-Smith heartbreaker Let Me Mend The Past is another standout on the album, his raw, rough around the edges and passionate vocals perfectly capturing the regret evident in the title of the song. The yearning lead vocals are backed up by smooth vocals of the other members of the group, and the instrumentation brings to mind a lost soul b-side from the late 1950s. Hearing a keyboard set to the sound of a piano may surprise fans of the group, and may be another moment in a richly textured album that may divide fans of the predominantly scuzzy garage punk sound King Gizz were so well known for, and this new direction. Pop In My Step has a similar vibe, opening with a Beatles-esque reverse guitar and channelling the swagger of T.Rex with the pop sensibilities of Wreckless Eric and demonstrating the perfect understated marriage of each member’s instrument. A track that is also just as lyrically addictive, the applause toward the end of the song is fitting. Mystery Jack is a killer fuzzed out rock n roll track, and could be lifted right off a Nuggets compilation.
Presently in the world of music, the word “psych” seems to be slapped on anything and everything: ‘psych pop’, ‘psych soul’, ‘psych folk’, you get the picture. It’s become a catch-all word to describe anything sounding slightly drenched in reverb, thus sounding “out there”. However, King Gizzard are proper exponents of the psychedelic sound, and traces can be found extensively throughout the record. The single 30 Past 7 showcases the sitar once again, and harks back to the slower moments of Head On. It blissfully lilts along in no rush, and is just begging to be spun outdoors this summer. However, the best example of King Gizzard proving their psychedelic wares comes during the album closer Float Along – Fill Your Lungs, in which they impart their own kind of wisdom amidst a swirling sound of synths, stringed instruments and drums. The track ties up the album nicely, and ends on a high point.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard could have played it safe and stuck with their tried and true garage surf punk formula, something that every second band seem to be doing in the local scene. This undoubtedly wouldn’t have diminished their fanbase and kept most people happy. But instead they’ve well and truly stepped it up a notch, their experimentation and genre hopping leading to releasing one of the contenders for album of the year, that will no doubt have reserved a place in many end-of-year lists. It is also worth noting the production value of the entire album is something to behold, and the stereo field of sound translates extraordinarily through a big set of speakers. The songs have already made their way into their formidable electric live shows, and demand to be seen in this context to fully appreciate and experience the giddy wonder one feels post a King Gizzard show. This leap forth in such a short time leads to wondering just where they are going to go next. Damned if anyone knows, but it’s going to be exciting. Up and atom King Gizzard.
By Tom Marinelli