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.
The endcap on KGATLW’s crazy year is a mix of mellow and heavy that sums up 2017 pretty well for them. Opener “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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