Updated: Dec 4, 2020
Favorite Track: "Minimum Brain Size" Least Favorite Track: "Intrasport"
If the name of the band is any indication, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are an odd bunch. A wildly creative group fueled by their exciting addiction to versatility, they have consistently been one of the most critically lauded and communally heralded rock bands of the 2010s. Originally utilizing the crunchy and lo-fi sounds of the Australian psychedelic rock scene on their 2011 debut, Willoughby’s Beach, they quickly moved through just about every genre imaginable all the way up to their 2019 thrash metal opus Infest the Rats’ Nest. This somewhat unpredictable ideal of a band that was capable of pretty much anything at any given moment is an endearing sentiment, making even King Gizzard’s least inspired work relatively palatable.
Unfortunately for fans, their newest work, titled K.G., is easily both their least inspired and least interesting album yet, even if it does still manage to be somewhat engaging at specific points and never crosses a line into poor musicianship. K.G. feels somewhat misguided, as if King Gizzard had little to no idea where they wanted to go with their newest release. The album, as a whole, feels very contradictory to King Gizzard’s M.O., with the majority of the songs sounding very similar, the guitar tones offering nothing gripping in any way, and the lyrics exhibiting nothing but jumble more often than not. This record, while not terrible, is quite disappointing coming from a band capable of creating a record like Nonagon Infinity.
In terms of musical narrative, K.G. features plucky acoustic guitar, usually accompanied by a second guitar with a twangy, clean tone. Many of the tracks here feel derived from some Scottish musical trends, with a lot of songs sounding like they could have fit right at home in the soundtrack to the Disney animated film Brave if it employed a few more microtones. My biggest gripe with the record musically, however, is that it feels like one neverending song. In concept, an album whose songs all flow into each other like a river is a wonderful idea. In fact, King Gizzard has done it before, and instead pulled it off with flying colors on their most critically lauded record to date, Nonagon Infinity. The difference between K.G. and Nonagon Infinity though is that where the latter manages to employ tracks that flow into each other perfectly and also manages to make each song have its own identity, the former never feels like it progresses past the first song. The only track that genuinely manages to stick out and have an individual personality on the record, “Intrasport”, really stands out for all the wrong reasons.
Granted, there is never a point where K.G. crosses into the territory of being bad, but it constantly leaves me feeling like there is something missing, especially when so many of the core ideas on these tracks are so solid. “Minimum Brain Size” has a super quick-fire guitar riff and a wonderful utilization of auxiliary percussion, but at no point in this song do I feel as though I am being engaged or grabbed. This feeling is only worsened by the mind-numbingly repetitive drum beat which not only feels as though it never changes on this specific song, but retains that stale, worn-out welcome throughout the tracklist on K.G. The closing cut “The Hungry Wolf of Fate” has a pretty great chorus riff, aggressively explosive and a wonderful utilization of distortion and feedback that feels like classic King Gizzard through and through. However, it ends up becoming the most one-note track on the record, and the five minute plus runtime makes it quite painful to get through. This common theme of having a track having plenty of good qualities only to be contradicted by another poorly thought-out songwriting device is far and away K.G.'s biggest achilles heel.
With as much as I loved records like Infest the Rats’ Nest and I’m In Your Mind Fuzz, I was left wildly disappointed at the lack of creativity exhibited on King Gizzard’s latest studio effort. All the eccentric, engaging, and relentlessly charismatic ideas so omnipresent on previous King Gizzard projects seemed to be completely absent on K.G. While this didn’t particularly surprise me (the band has made 17 albums in the past 9 years, there are bound to be duds), I was still quite unhappy to find that one of the most consistently fantastic rock groups of the 2010’s seems to have finally hit a roadblock in their creative process. Nonetheless, K.G. is not a bad record, but in comparison to their previous works it fails to live up to the tremendous legacy of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.