King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Gumboot Soup

Australian psych-rock work horses King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard set out at the beginning of 2017 to do something in one year that many bands don’t do over the course of an entire career – release five albums.  Yes, five albums in one year.  The band has always been prolific, but this seemed a bit nuts.

First came Flying Microtonal Banana, then Murder of the Universe, then Sketches of Brunswick East, then Polygondwanaland, and finally (released New Year’s Eve 2017, no less) Gumboot Soup.

The endcap on KGATLW’s crazy year is a mix of mellow and heavy that sums up 2017 pretty well for themOpener “Beginner’s Luck” is, on its surface, a song about gambling in a casino but is secretly about addictions and temptations.  The walking bass line on it is great.  “Greenhouse Heat Death” takes us from the mellow feel of the opening track to the distorted and warped feel of KGATLW’s heavier material.  Some microtonal touches are sprinkled in for good measure, too.

Stu MacKenzie‘s flute takes lead on the quirky “Barefoot Desert.”  “Muddy Water” is a sharp track that I suspect might be a take on a Taoist story about being a happy turtle in the mud instead of becoming a glorious dead shell in a palace.  The song builds into  Middle Eastern-flavored rocker that never lets go of your attention.

Believe it or not, the band moves into a bit of synth-psych (or is it psych-synth?) on “Superposition,” combining synthesizers with flute, more great bass and drumming, and ethereal vocals.  “Down the Sink” has a Bee Gees-inspired beat that I love.  I hadn’t considered before if KGATLW were inspired by their fellow Aussies, but this track makes it seem obvious.  It’s not a disco cut, mind you, but that wicked dual drummer beat is definitely something Barry Gibb might’ve cooked up in the studio.

“The Great Chain of Being” is a guttural chunk of stoner metal and a wild contrast to some of the earlier tracks.  It’s like Sleep and Electric Wizard squaring off in a dirty pub.  Just to mess with us, they follow it with “The Last Oasis” – a lovely track that reminds me of some of Thundercat‘s work, but with lyrics that sound like they’ve been lounging under a palm tree all day.

“All Is Known” is sort of a bridge between Flying Microtonal Banana and Nonagon Infinity as it combines the microtonal guitar work of the first album with the dead-run beats and mind-blown lyrics of the second.  “I’m Sleepin’ In” could easily be a Sketches of East Brunswick B-side.  I love its subtle harmonica work behind the distorted hip hop beats.  The closing track is “The Wheel” – an acid lounge cut that tells us that the cosmic “wheel that spins us into our future” is the same one that brings us back to where we started.

It would’ve been easy for KGATLW to make their final release of 2017 a live album or a collection of B-sides and outtakes, but they stuck to their promise and delivered five albums of original material.  Each of them is quality stuff, and Gumboot Soup is no exception.

Keep your mind open.

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Top 30 albums of 2017: #’s 15 – 11

We’re halfway there, folks. Things only get better from here.

#15 – King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Flying Microtonal Banana

The year of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard began with the first of their five planned releases for 2017.  Yes, five.  Flying Microtonal Banana unleashes the band’s new obsession with microtones and provided a link between their outstanding Nonagon Infinity to the rest of their catalogue.

#14  – King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Murder of the Universe

Easily the craziest album of the year for me, the second release from KGATLW of 2017 is a concept album about a man turned into a cyborg by a giant monster.  That man then decides the only way to end his suffering is to destroy the universe so he can finally embrace death.

#13 – King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard with Mild High Club – Sketches of Brunswick East

Yes, that’s three KGATLW albums in a row in my top 15.  This one, a joint effort with Mild High Club, is my favorite and the mellowest.  It’s a delightful change from the heaviness of Murder of the Universe and has some of their best psychedelic grooves.

#12 – Jackie Shane – Any Other Way

This is probably the best reissue of the year.  In case you didn’t know (and many of us didn’t), Jackie Shane was a talented performer on the soul scene in the 1950’s and 1960’s who gained most of her fame in Canada and then disappeared into obscurity almost as fast as she became a star.  She also did this while being a transgendered black woman during a time when openly living in a such a way was a great way to get thrown in jail or worse.  This double-disc album is eye-opening and jaw-dropping.  You’ll be amazed that you’ve never heard her before and want to her more of her all the time.

#11 – Zombie Zombie – Livity

I almost forgot how much I missed France’s Zombie Zombie until I heard them again on this new album.  It’s an expansive soundscape of sci-fi synths, processed beats, and mood-shifting analog sounds.  You need this if you’re into electro, synthwave, or altering your reality.

Who’s in the top ten?  Come back soon, my friends!

Keep your mind open.

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Top live shows of 2017: #’s 10 – 6

We’ve reached the top ten in my list of live shows for 2017.  Who’s here?  Read on…

#10 – Kasabian – House of Blues Chicago – Chicago, IL September 20th.

“I don’t know why this show isn’t sold out?” was the sentiment held by me and at least a few others when Kasabian played in Chicago.  “These guys sell out Glastonbury!” said a guy behind me, referring to the massive British music festival.  Sure enough, Kasabian put on a great, energetic set that had everyone bouncing and dancing.  It might’ve been the liveliest set you missed all year.

#9 – All Them Witches – Founder’s Brewery – Grand Rapids, MI March 19th.

I was stunned to learn that Nashville’s All Them Witches were playing for free up in Michigan.  I was even more stunned by their set, which was a tight set infused with blues, rock, voodoo rock, and psychedelia.  It immediately made me want to catch them again as soon as possible.

#8 – King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Metro – Chicago, IL April 8th.

2017 has been the year of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.  They’ve release four albums this year and a fifth is due to drop any day now.  Their show at Chicago’s Metro was one of the craziest I attended all year.  They tore through a set that not only played older material but also included tunes from the (at the time) unreleased album Murder of the Universe.

#7 – Anoushka Shankar – IPFW – Ft. Wayne, IN March 26th.

This show gave me chills.  Anoushka Shankar is perhaps the greatest living sitar player on Earth, although I’m sure she’d disagree with that statement.  Seeing and hearing her in an acoustically perfect venue playing traditional ragas might convince you of my earlier statement, however.  It was a sublime performance.

#6 – Flying Lotus – Mamby on the Beach – Chicago, IL June 25th.

Flying Lotus was the final act we saw at Mamby on the Beach this year.  It was chilly by that time of day, but his set made you forget about the cool air blowing in from Lake Michigan.  The visuals were stunning and the sounds he made from his mushroom cloud-like stand were an impressive array of psychedelic, trip hop, and dub sounds.

Who finishes in the top five for 2017?  You’ll find out tomorrow!

Keep your mind open.

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King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Polygondwanaland

The fourth album from King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard of this year, Polygondwanaland, is special for a couple reasons.  One, to repeat the earlier point, is that it’s the fourth album they’ve put out this year.  Many bands don’t put out four albums in a lifetime, let alone four in one year…with another one yet to come before the year’s end.  Second, is that they are giving away this album for free.

Yes, you can download this album for free and, according to the band, use the tracks for anything you’d like.  Many indie labels have already created their own rare pressings of the album on vinyl.  KGATLW have stated that anyone can use the songs for their film, art projects, mix tapes, remix albums, or any other use.  It’s a stunning gift to fans and the world at large.

The album is a neat mix of the many sounds KGATLW create.  The opener, “Crumbling Castle,” is an epic song just under eleven minutes long that exemplifies the band’s cosmic psychedelia with echoed vocals, microtonal guitars, perfect double-drumming, and tricky guitar work.  The title track is mellower and almost hypnotizing, as is “The Castle in the Air” with Stu MacKenzie‘s flute work.

“Deserted Dunes Welcome Weary Feet” and “Inner Cell” are equally haunting, especially the latter with its lyrics speaking of the dead, ghosts, and shadows.  The bass line on “Loyalty” is one of the best KGATLW have put on a track all year.  “Horology” and “Tetrachromacy” are neat companion pieces to each other with their complimentary guitar pieces and tick-tock drumming.  The building groove of “Searching…” is outstanding, and the entire track simmers with synth wave menace that is new to KGATLW’s sound.  I hope they explore more of this on the next record.  It flows right into the album’s closer, “The Fourth Color,” which is a sizzling jam on all fronts – especially when it comes back from a fake fade-out.

Is this as good as the three previous releases from KGATLW so far?  No, but it is still an excellent piece of work and is reminiscent of some of the band’s earlier material.  This isn’t a bad place to start if you’re just now walking into the KGATLW camp.  It blends many of their styles well.

Keep your mind open.

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King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Murder of the Universe

In this day and age, I’m fairly certain that few bands could make a good concept album.  Fewer still could make one about a cyborg who wants to be fully human while interacting with a wizard attempting to stop a monster from destroying all of creation.  King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have done just that, however, with Murder of the Universe.

In case you’re unaware, this is KGATLW’s second album of the year, and they plan to release three more before the end of 2017.  The first was the excellent Flying Microtonal Banana and the third, a collaboration with Mild High Club called Sketches of Brunswick East is already available for pre-order.

Lyrically and sonically, Murder of the Universe links up well with Flying Microtonal Banana and the outstanding Nonagon Infinity.  It’s like they’re a complete trilogy, and some people have suggested the robot in Nonagon Infinity‘s lead track, “Robot Stomp,” is the cyborg caught up in the Murder of the Universe.  You can also hear the beginning of Nonagon Infinity‘s “People Vultures” on this new record (on “Some Context”).

The album’s intro, “A New World,” has a haunting poem spoken by a young woman describing the aftermath of a nuclear war and how even more horrible things are to come afterwards.  The first is an “Altered Beast (Part 1).”  The band comes out like an angry, roaring bear from of its den.  Parts 2, 3, and 4 of the song alternate with the three-part “Altered Me.”  The war’s survivor realizes he must adapt to the new environment and new beastly overlord to survive (or did the beast alter him for a dark purpose?).  Each song flows seamlessly into the next and KGATLW slays each part.  Guitars assault you from every direction but can still stop on a dime.  The double drumming is insane, and the synths bring a wild, weird 1980’s horror film vibe to the whole thing.

The survivor has become an altered beast by the end of “Altered Beast IV,” feeling nothing but still remembering his humanity and the idea of freedom.  He has lost the concepts of “Life / Death,” but still clings to the idea of revenge.  He finds a possible ally in “The Lord of Lightning” (in which lead singer Stu Mackenzie yells “Nonagon infinity!” a few times).  It’s a wicked song that would leave anyone who’d never heard a KGATLW song before dumbfounded.  It tells the story of an epic mystical battle yet the song blasts by you like something shot from a catapult.

“The Balrog” could be the altered beast, but he is certainly the Lord of Lightning’s enemy.  The song is a sonic fiery claw in your brain with crazy percussion and even wilder guitars.  “The Floating Fire” is all that’s left after the war between the Balrog and the Lord of Lightning.  The Balrog becomes “The Acrid Corpse” by the end of it, but only eternal darkness remains after the Lord of Lightning leaves.

The future is left to the few survivors who have become cyborgs in order to live in the new world.  It’s all “Digital Black” in this new time.  People have willingly given up their humanity (“We’ve turned our bodies into computers…”) in a quest for what they thought was perfection.  The bass riff in this is great, as is the hard-hitting beat throughout it.

One such cyborg is “Han-Tyumi the Confused Cyborg,” the survivor of the original meeting with the altered beast.  All he wants is to vomit and die.  He wants pain, stench, and some sort of end instead of his endless digitized illusion of life and pleasure.  His “Vomit Coffin,” a machine of his own design, might help him do it.  It’s another weird rocker mixed with digitized vocals and synth grooves as Han-Tyumi gives himself over to full digitization in order to free himself (and perhaps the world) from his living death.

The title track has Han-Tyumi expanding far beyond his physical form until he’s traveling at the speed of light and infiltrating every living cell and atom.  The only way for him to find death is to destroy everything, and he does it.

So, yeah, it’s not a happy-go-lucky record.  It’s a crazy concept record about a giant monster attack nearly destroying the world and changing the few survivors left into cyborgs who are left with an even bleaker world after a lightning god battles a giant fire monster, which drives one of the few cyborgs with any shred of humanity left to destroy the entire universe in order to free himself from an eternal life of cold, digital monotony.

Why haven’t you bought it by now?

Keep your mind open.

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“Welcome to an Altered Future,” has the cyborg, Han-Tyumi, describing how the digital age led to the death of the world thanks to artificial intelligence.  “We turned our bodies into computers,” the band’s lead vocalist, Stu, sings on

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Flying Microtonal Banana

Named after a yellow guitar that looks a bit like a Gibson Flying V but is built to play microtones, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s first album – of five – of 2017, Flying Microtonal Banana, is another wild mind trip from the Australian psychedelic workhorses.

Beginning with the sound of wind across the desert, “Rattlesnake” is over seven minutes of toe-tapping, head-nodding, mind-altering psychedelia. The beat is venomous and the microtonal guitar work in the last third of it is great. It flows straight into “Melting” (a song about the damage we’re doing to the environment), which your mind might already be doing by this point. The dual drumming is hypnotic, as is the bass line, organ, and the near-lounge jazz sound of the whole track. The sound of ocean waves keeps you drifting on “Open Water,” and the surf guitar certainly helps. Could it be another environmental warning about all of us living in a water world after the ice caps melt (as mentioned in the previous track)? The microtonal guitars on it are like something you’d hear in a Marrakesh bazaar.

“Sleep Drifter” almost sounds like a slower version of “Rattlesnake” at first, but it’s about sleeping and dreaming with a loved one instead of a song about a wise animal / Midgard serpent. The track gets into a sweet rock groove by the end (love the harmonica and that porn guitar!). “Billabong Valley” is another microtonal freak-out as we hear about an outlaw who enters the mystic valley and is “shot in the back by mornin’.” “Anoxia” gets us back to the environmental themes of the record (The album cover features a man in a haz-mat suit and a snake emerging from a biohazard waste barrel.). The double drums almost play lead on it.

Don’t worry if the previous couple tracks didn’t have enough fuzz for you, because “Doom City” has enough for the entire side of an LP. The microtonal guitar in this sounds like creepy laughter from an evil imp hiding in a dark corner. I’m sure it’s not a random choice that “Nuclear Fusion” follows “Doom City.” The songs flow together and the groove is downright radioactive. It gets under your skin and might make you hear colors as they sing about patterns in the sky and on the subatomic level.

The title track (an instrumental) closes the record, and the band brings in cool Australian Aboriginal percussion to meld with the squealing, hypnotic microtonal guitars. KGALTW are off to a great start in their five-album quest. The second one, Murder of the Universe, is already available for pre-order. Get caught up now while you can by picking up Flying Microtonal Banana.

Keep your mind open.

Extremely limited editions of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s second album of 2017 now available for pre-order.

KING GIZZARD & THE LIZARD WIZARD
MURDER OF THE UNIVERSE PRE-ORDER IS NOW LIVE
Han-Tyumi & The Murder Of The Universe 13 min video released

MURDER OF THE UNIVERSE
released June 23, 2017

  • King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s 10th studio album MURDER OF THE UNIVERSE will be released June 23, 2017.
  • Pre-order now from www.flightlessrecords.com
  • The album consists of 21 tracks split into three chapters. Watch the video for “Chapter 3: Han-Tyumi and the Murder of the Universe” HERE. 
  • There are three different pre-order editions all limited to 2000 copies world-wide.

Tracklist:

The Tale Of The Altered Beast

1. A New World
2. Altered Beast I
3. Alter Me I
4. Altered Beast II
5. Alter Me II
6. Altered Beast III
7. Alter Me III
8. Altered Beast IV
9. Life / DeathThe Lord Of Lightning Vs. Balrog

10. Some Context
11. The Reticent Raconteur
12. The Lord Of Lightning
13. The Balrog
14. The Floating Fire
15. The Acrid CorpseHan-Tyumi And The Murder Of The Universe

16. Welcome To An Altered Future
17. Digital Black
18. Han-Tyumi, The Confused Cyborg
19. Soy-Protein Munt Machine
20. Vomit Coffin
21. Murder Of The Universe

Altered Beast Edition 
– Tri-coloured wax
– 30 page illustrated story book
– Zoetrope animated labels
– Download card
– Limited to 2000 worldwide

Floating Fire Edition
– Floating Fire Splattered wax
– 30 page illustrated story book
– Zoetrope animated labels
– Download card
– Limited to 2000 worldwide

Vomit Coffin Edition
– Vomit coloured blob with splatter wax
– 30 page illustrated story book
– Zoetrope animated labels
– Download card
– Limited to 2000 worldwide

FOLLOW THE BAND’S FACEBOOK/INSTAGRAM/TWITTER FOR NEWS.

Live – King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, ORB, Stonefield – Chicago, IL – April 08, 2017

I knew it was going to be a wild crowd for King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard when I saw a woman in line pick up a roach she’d dropped after her friend had taken a toke and then passed to her.  Yes, she finished a joint that had been dropped on a filthy Chicago sidewalk (on North Clark, to be precise) and then joined the line of people who had been “pre-gaming” at the pub next door.

I met a friend of mine, Amy, I hadn’t seen in years for the show.  She hadn’t heard of KGATLWORB, or Stonefield.  She told me she didn’t listen to anything by any of them before the show.  She wanted to be surprised.  She wore a walking boot as a result of a foot surgery, and that allowed us to sit in a specially designated “handicap seating” area in the Metro balcony.  I’m not sure how anyone with an affliction worse than a post-surgery walking boot could make it up to the balcony, but we had great seats regardless.

Stonefield were already playing when we arrived (The Metro is one of the few venues I’ve visited that is serious about the starting times of their shows.), and they had already swooned most of the crowd.  Amy was a fan within two songs, and their blend of 60’s psych and doom metal was a heady brew and a fine start to the evening.

Stonefield

ORB were onstage not long after Stonefield had finished their set.  I was keen on seeing them as their Birth album is one of my favorites from 2016.  Their hard-hitting stoner metal sounded great.  They played a fast set that left all of us wanting more (in a good way).  I hope they release another album or EP soon.

ORB

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard came out to an enthusiastic crowd who were crowd surfing within three songs.  Amy cried out, “Look at that crowd!”  The main floor was a rolling sea of bodies and limbs for KGATLW’s entire set.  They played a lot of tracks from their new album, Flying Microtonal Banana (review coming soon).  “Sleep Drifter,” “Rattlesnake,” and “Billabong Valley” all were hot cuts.  Another big hit with the crowd was “Altered Beast.”

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

The crowd, which was crazy enough already, went bonkers during “Robot Stop” from their amazing album Nonagon Infinity.  “People Vultures” and “Gamma Knife” were also big hits.  “Vomit Comet” was fun, as was They didn’t play an encore.  Instead, they played a stunning medley of “Cellophane,” “Head On / Pill,” “I’m in Your Mind,” “Altered Me,” “Rattlesnake,” and “Robot Stop.”  It was like they had looped the show back on itself like a snake eating its tail.  I’ve never seen a band do anything like that live.

KGATLW rocking “People Vultures.”

It was a killer show.  My voice was hoarse by the end of it.  By the way, KGATLW has already announced the release date of their second album (of five planned) for 2017.  Murder of the Universe will be out June 23rd (and you can pre-order it as of today).  Look for them to tour near your town soon!

Keep your mind open.