Title: L.W.
Artist: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Label: Flightless
Genre: Psychedelic Rock
Released: 26 February 2021

Tracklist

1. If Not Now, Then When?
2. Don't Get Hurt
3. "Do You - -
4. Love in Real Time
5. The Year Everything and Nothing Happened
6. - Remember -
7. You Never Came Back
8. Black Marble
9. Keep Fighting the Good Fight
10. Perpetual Sunday Evening
11. - The Moment?"
12. The Rain Outside...

KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD

L.W.

"K.G.L.W
When the claws come out
Cage me too
I'm an animal too
Woo!"

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are now entering their second decade of making music. They’ve been at the top of their game making some of the most eccentric and varied psych-rock of the 2010s, and they rounded off last year by releasing their sixteenth studio album, “K.G.”; a surprising return to style for a band who has been so focused on constantly reinventing their sound, album after album. After dipping their feet into microtonal tuning back in 2017, with “Flying Microtonal Banana”, “K.G.” continued to delve into different explorations of the musical technique, creating a really solid and cohesive record that managed to cover a lot of ground, despite retreading some of its predecessor’s. And now, with the release of the third microtonal instalment in the band’s discography, and the sequel album to “K.G.”, the band have unfortunately shown that they may have begun to run the concept a bit dry.

Part of the appeal of King Gizzard, for me personally at least, has always been their willingness to continue to push their stylistic boundaries. You could argue that the band has a very consistent core sound throughout their discography, but it’s how they manage to bend and manipulate that sound into various genres that keeps them feeling so fresh. It’s always unmistakeably King Gizzard, from the signature “WOOH” vocal line that permeates through almost all of their albums, to multiple other songwriting trademarks they’ve incorporated over the years. But at the same time, they do such an incredible job at integrating fresh and different ideas as the centrepieces of each of their albums. In 2015, they made “Paper Mache Dream Balloon”, a gorgeous acoustic record, that despite completely deviating from their anchoring genre of psychedelic-rock, was embraced fully by the group. In 2017, they pushed this even further by releasing five separate albums, each of which differing greatly from the last. And in 2019, perhaps their most entertaining contrast of albums yet; the boogie record “Fishing for Fishies”, dropping only months before their thrash metal record, “Infest the Rat’s Nest”. I may simply be listing their discography here, but my point is that with every new iteration the band has taken on, their music, in turn, has flourished along with these bursts of inspiration and creativity.

Until now.

If “K.G.” hinted at anything, it’s that once the band remains too stagnated on a single idea, their music begins to feel as though they’re simply going through the motions. While “K.G” managed to stand on its own two feet as a solid Gizz album despite this, “L.G.” instead suffers greatly. This is not a bad album by any means. The songs on here are fine, and the microtonal theme of the record is interesting enough to draw in any unfamiliar listeners. On top of that, these guys are all extremely skilled at what they do, and because of that, there is plenty of really solid composition and instrumentation here. However, this is definitely one of the least memorable albums the band has put together to date. And while that’s partly due to it not following the constant pattern of novelties that saturates the band’s back-catalogue, it’s also clear that by the time they got to recording the tracks on “L.W.”, their inspiration was losing some steam.

This was recorded during the same studio sessions as “K.G.”, with the group coming up with 19 tracks in total, each glued together between band members in COVID isolation. Amongst those 19 tracks, however, “L.W.” unfortunately cops the most mundane bunch. It really feels like a collection of B-Sides, rather than managing to hold up by itself, and feels especially irrelevant when placed in comparison to either of its predecessors. And while this is clearly meant to work as the second half of a double album, rather than its own individual statement, it does nothing but add unnecessary filler to a record that was already beginning to starve for ideas.

However, it’s this relationship that “L.W.” has with its sister record that is by far its most interesting aspect. The final track of “K.G.” leads directly into the opener here, ‘If Not Now, Then When?’, and on top of this, there is an entirely new rendition of “K.G.’s” opening track, ‘K.G.L.W’, that closes this record, creating a palindromic effect similar to that of “Nonagon Infinity”. And although the original, shorter version was punchier and more effective, it’s still nice to hear a strong motif return to round the albums out.

On top of this, there are definitely some other genuine highlights throughout the album. Tracks ‘O.N.E.’, and ‘Supreme Ascendancy’, are really great, despite remaining fairly formulaic to the group’s established sound. But it’s throughout the middle section of the record where the album really loses its way. ‘Static Electricity’ introduces a slump that doesn’t really resolve itself until the final reprisal of ‘K.G.L.W.’, causing the whole second half of the record to feel extremely lopsided. What should be the homerun of this huge double album, instead becomes its biggest slog. These are okay songs, but it feels like the band has already written them so many times before. In fact, it’s difficult to even tell most of the tracks on this second half apart, with a noticeable lack of variety and dynamics plaguing its entire structure. With the same sounding riffs, instruments, and vocal styles, each song here sounds as though its been churned out by some A.I., programmed off King Gizzard’s past microtonal escapades, in order to merely produce extra content. And while I don’t specifically have too many negative things to say about these songs, I also find it pretty difficult to get too excited about any of them.

All that being said, I did still enjoy this album. There’s plenty to like here, but I think the group really could have gone with only releasing the one follow-up to “Microtonal Banana”. Where “K.G.” was a mostly solid album with a few dull moments sprinkled throughout, “L.W.” really got the short end of the straw. Nothing on here ever passes into the realm of being bad; the band are experienced and skilled enough to avoid that; but a lot of this is pretty unmemorable, despite including a few standout moments.

Did we really need “L.W.”? Probably not. This could have been released officially as a collection of B-Sides a few years down the road, and been far less underwhelming. However, I really shouldn’t complain too much about it. Although I didn’t love this, having a band as prolific and adventurous as King Gizzard around is a privilege. For a group who now have a whopping seventeen studio albums in their catalogue after only ten years, its astounding that even half of that is as good as it is. While “L.W.” feels like a minor speedbump for a band who has had their foot on the pedal since they started, it’s still a decent enough album, which many will find enjoyment out of. And although it didn’t do much for me, the band are talented and inventive enough that it most likely won’t be too long until they blow me away again. And knowing them, it’ll probably be with a ska album.

"Am I going insane?
Am I able to wake from the nightmare?
Can I keep it contained?
One night everywhere turned to nowhere"

Reviewed by Layton Bryce - 03/03/2021
6/10
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