King Gizzard, with a name that clearly started out as a joke, have become a part of the increasingly creative rock scene coming out of Australia with Tame Impala and Pond. Perhaps they are the fulfillment of what the Vines obviously never became, perhaps something new. Either way, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard is one of the coolest indie bands out at the moment as well as one of the best. Riding high after last year’s better-than-you-remember Nonagon Infinity, the band is back and is promising to release five new records in 2017.
Flying Microtonal Banana is both the first entry in that promise, and the first album title of theirs that matches the sheer goofiness of their name. It is a record that both lives up to their previous high water mark, but also fails. Where Nonagon Infinity felt like a never ending train, riding at 130 bpm across land, sea and space, Banana feels like a trip through the desert on a Honda motorcycle. Moments of stopping to see the towns, moments of cruising through the sand at high speed, moments of dodging cacti. It’s a solid record and one that’s sure to please fans, myself included, even if it doesn’t meet the highs of its predecessor.
It begins with the advance single and best track here “Rattlesnake” which feels like many of Nonagon’s strengths boiled down to eight minutes. A chugging engine guitar and a twisting melody and matching guitar lick carry through and make the long track feel like three minutes. “Melting” starts with a Ty Segall-esque melody with a sly guitar once again noodling the melody on top of the vocals. The song sounds like the opposite of its title, it doesn’t feel like its melting, it feels like its already melted and we are trying in futility to put it back together. Its not a bad song, but its nearly atonal guitar solo wears after sixty seconds.
“Open Water” sounds like an English GOAT song with the jammy guitar and the multiple percussions working together to hold down the rhythm. It doesn’t come even close to earning its 7:14 running time, but they go down swinging. “Sleep Drifter” is a definite highlight, the first track on the record that doesn’t sound genuinely tired, and the first one to integrate the harmonica in a way that actually adds to the song. The slower bpm rhythm chugs along in a nice pocket leaving space and air for the guitar to play above its movement. “Billabong Valley” holds a secret, after 90 seconds, the song shifts almost completely for a big band in a blender moment. Like the Neutral Milk Hotel orchestra upside-down and in reverse, it’s a notable breakdown, even if its not a completely successful one. When the vocals return in, it is propelled by the creativity, having more juice than it began with.
“Anoxia” plays many of the same tricks as the record does, harmonic guitar play and strong, frantic drumming, but with a better song to paint on top with, it works better than some of the other songs here. “Doom City” plays like a coda to “Rattlesnake” with its yellows and browns. “Nuclear Fusion” has little to offer that we haven’t heard so far. This mirrors the record as a whole, it plays inside the lines even more than its predecessor which was locked into a “it never ever stops” schtick. There are some solid tracks here, but overall it suffers from a big what if. Perhaps instead of making five records this year, they should have made one? The lesson of Robert Pollard strikes again. C PLUS