Album Reviews - Reviews

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Paper Maché Dream Balloon


Their long-winded name gives the distinct impression King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are some whacked-out middle-aged men playing 80’s progressive rock, talking about spirituality and shit.  And on previous albums they have leaned in that direction, with sustained improvised grooves, but it has always been more in line with repetitive psych rock rhythms, than drawn out introspective jams.  On last album Quarters! there were majestically sprawling tracks, four of them to be precise, lasting 10 minutes and 10 seconds each.  They used wizardry of Gandalf proportions to instil magic in songs of that length, intricate musical patterns were weaved and complicated melodies teased out at every turn.

They are advocates of Thee Oh Sees, and have released records under John Dwyer’s (Thee Oh Sees, Coachwhips, The Hospitals Zeigenbock Kopf, to name a few) label Castle Face Records, as well as their own Flightless label.  Vocalist/guitarist Stu MacKenzie even has the chiselled jaw-line of Dwyer and indulges in similar stage antics such as tongue acrobatics and writhing around recklessly with his guitar.  This being their seventh album in 3 years also bears comparison to Dwyer’s relentless output.  It could be said that Thee Oh Sees have borrowed a trick from King Gizzard’s book by enlisting two drummers on their last album.

There’s a propensity for abstract lyrics with King Gizzard and they make use of syncopated rhythms – creating what some might label twee-psych or psychotic-pop.  The album cover shows plasticine figures of the band situated in front of a water-tank on a farm, an image which as it transpires, happens to be the visual equivalent to this album’s sound.  It seems to be a concept album, based around awful 70’s cartoon theme tunes.

On ‘Bone’ he sings “any dog can chew over my bone… and all my wine’s gonna turn into blood”, with his high-pitched but hushed vocals and the addition flute it sounds like it could soundtrack a cartoon for under 8’s. ‘Dirt’ provides gently strummed acoustics with flute once again providing the accents and softening the sound at times.  It’s an album that sounds like people trapped in a drug trip, frolicking around sun-soaked gardens, where the grass is made of apple liquorice, the trees are giant lollipops and the animals converse with humans.  The flute is a very questionable instrument in contemporary music of any kind; it’s used heavily on this record and for a band who normally specialise in psych-rock it’s a strange weapon of choice.  I’m all for introducing the unexpected but at times on this album I can’t help picturing some big weirdo with a top hat, multicoloured trousers and a pointy purple beard prancing around on his tippy-toes rambling away about “children of the forest”… it’s slightly too hippy, and a tad unsettling; listen to ‘Trapdoor’ and you’ll understand.

There are glimpses of T-Rex surrealism on ‘The Bitter Boogie’ and ‘Most of what I Like’, which are highlights because they’re direct and make use of soulful vocals that draw you in. They’re measured songs with substance and show what this album could’ve been; but I think the band intentionally created a peculiar record.  Following on from that, ‘N.G.R.I (Bloodstain)’ is decent, but that’s probably because it reminds me of the Little Mouse on the Prairie theme tune, which I quite enjoyed in yonder days.  ‘Dirt’ is another one of the brighter moments on the album.  Nearly every song on the album clocks in at under three minutes, which should make them punchy and succinct, but unfortunately they’ve lost the snarl and attitude present on previous releases.  This is an album that makes me pine for high-octane beasts like ‘Head On/Pill’ from 2013’s Float Along – Fill Your Lungs. Although, as I alluded to earlier I can’t help but think they were having a laugh when they dreamt/drugged up this album. An album balancing the country-blues style of ‘Bitter Boogie’ with songs like ‘Head-On’ is a tantalising proposition. Bring on the next release, which could be a space-aged metal album, with extra helpings of psych, and will probably be ready in time for Christmas judging by previous turnarounds. Garrett Hargan