The Gizz is back with their fourth effort of the year, and it sounds like they’ve been listening to too much Tool.
Fans of the the proggy indie hard rock outfit (like the B52s on crack) went into this year fresh off their fantastic effort Nonagon Infinity, in eager anticipation of the announced attempt to release five albums by the year’s end. And, so far, it’s been mixed. Gizz explores interesting corners of music on each work - Flying Microtonal Banana fooled around with notes outside the chromatic scale, Murder of the Universe was a multi-narrative concept album, and Sketches of Brunswick East turned into a jazz-influenced effort (c.f. Miles Davis’s Sketches of Spain).
All of this undoubtably will pay off eventually, in the sense that King Gizzard has displayed cross-style proficiency.They’ve seriously enhanced their musical palette in the brief time since Nonagon, and I’m psyched for what’s in store two or three years down the line. In the meantime, though, this feels like lots of diddly experimentation, rushed out of the studio maybe just a bit too prematurely.
The problem is that releasing albums one-after-the-other like this doesn’t leave a lot of time for polish. The albums feel inchoate and occasionally uninspired. Though they’re writing some of their best music right now, the lines don’t really come together in the refined way you’d expect from a band of King Gizz’s stature. There are rough edges, and the past albums this year completely lack the magnetic pull that graces their earlier efforts. Sketches might be jazz-influenced, but it ends at a swing drumline and the occasional brass work; it’s not like they’ve gone and learned jazz harmony in the few months since their last album. They’re still very much King Gizz, but it falls flat, like they’ve run out of gas.
And that’s near where we’re left with Polygondwanaland. On the one hand, this is quite an addition to their ouevre - there are fantastically atmospheric vocal harmonies (Stu’s been practicing) and wonderful electronic textures on this album. Gizz also shows off some mad rhythm, weaving in and out of uncommon time signatures from bar to bar with the agility of a proper djent band. Cop the 7⁄4:4⁄4 polyrhythmic synth line on ‘Desert Dunes Welcome Weary Feet’ (thanks for working that one out, Pearson <3) and tell me that’s not real talent. It’s hard to pick one of many examples of this sort of proficiency, but the subtlety with which it’s performed is frankly jaw-dropping, and it’s all over the place here.
But that’s partly the problem with this album - this feels in many places more like an extended poly experiment. The band plays tightly throughout, but I’d like more melodic interplay than what’s currently on offer. And while the amped-up blast-your-face-off performances that define Gizz have been on show moreso on this album than any of the others this year, it still feels like they’re missing that magic Gizz spark, something that comes only after months and months of refining the tunes. The album has a lingering feeling of being rushed, recorded and mastered with more attention to deadlines than the quality of the work itself. It’s a good album, but it’s not up to King Gizz’s snuff. Still, I find this the most listenable and appealing album they’ve put out this year. For a free download, you can’t do much better.
Artist: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Label: Various. Top Tracks: Crumbling Castle, Deserted Dunes Welcome Weary Feet, Horology. For Fans Of: Oh Sees, Tesseract, Tool, Hella. 44 minutes