Album Review: “L.W.” by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

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“L.W.” album art

Released Feb. 25 of this year, “L.W.” serves as the follow up to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s “K.G.” album that was released in November of last year. “L.W.” is the Australian psych-rock group’s 17th studio release since the band was formed in 2011. 

Calling the band a psych-rock group is not entirely accurate, however, as the band has experimented with a myriad of different sounds, styles and genres during their time. From the acoustic and poppy “Paper Mache Dream Balloon” in 2015 to their jazzy and trippy “Quarters!” EP from the same year, to the blues-rock inspired “Fishing for Fishies” in 2019, the band has basically done it all.

After 17 projects over the course of 10 years, all varying in style, sound and genre, “L.W.” and its counterpart “K.G.” beg the question: has the band, in fact, done it all? Do they have any more tricks up their sleeves, or have they finally begun to get too comfortable with a specific style or sound? That is a difficult question for me to answer, and different King Gizzard fans would likely have vastly different answers to that question. Even if the group has become a bit too comfortable, that does not mean they are no longer capable of making fun, exciting and enjoyable music, as showcased by this album.

The album kicks off with the song “If Not Now, Then When?” which opens with some heavy guitars and drums that, at about one minute in, dissolve into a funky clavinet riff and some synths that are reminiscent of the instrumentation on Stevie Wonder’s song “Superstitious.” The vocals are very limited and understated for most of the track, which allows the instrumentation to take center stage, and I’m certainly not complaining. It is a funky and groovy song that I found myself subconsciously dancing to on my first listen.

The next track, “O.N.E,” opens very differently than the previous track, with a somber harmonica playing over a very slow piano backdrop and some reflective vocals from King Gizzard frontman Stu Mackenzie. It doesn’t take long for the track to pick up in tone, however, as all of a sudden the soft piano and harmonica cuts out in favor of some urgent and upbeat keyboard chords that sound like the opening to a boss battle in a video game. Next comes a bağlama – a Turkish string instrument – rift, giving the track a Middle-Eastern vibe, which then leads into the awesome drums and guitar that get my headbanging every time I hear it. This is soon followed by Mackenzie’s psychedelic vocals, which, when combined with the rocking instrumental, creates an electric track that is a lot of fun to listen to.

“Pleura” is another high-octane track that also carries over the desert vibe of the previous song. The vocals on this track alternate between the somewhat soft and psychedelic vocals the group is known for and a more gruff, raspy delivery, which makes for an interesting contrast. The occasional “Wooooos” in the track are fun too, but despite these things, there isn’t much about this track that helps it stand out from other songs in this album or in much of King Gizzard’s other work. It is still a fun track, however, and one that is great to rock out to.

“Supreme Ascendancy” marks a bit of an instrumental shift from the heavy guitar and drum bangers of the previous songs, as the bass on this track is groovy and pairs well with the far-eastern acoustics. Of all the tracks with a Middle-Eastern desert vibe, this instrumental is one of the more interesting and experimental. 

The content of the song is intriguing as well. It seems to be a critique of the corruption in the Catholic Church. As singer Ambrose Kenny-Smith says in the chorus “Supreme ascendancy, tomfoolery, you’re not above the law, no matter your beliefs.” The vibrato of the vocals on the track is also a nice touch, and it pairs well with the instrumental. Overall, while this track may not bang as hard as the previous songs, it more than makes up for it with the intriguing instrumental and substance of the lyrics.

The next song, titled “Static Electricity” is the first track on the album that underwhelmed me. There is certainly a pleasant rhythm to the track, and the chorus is quite catchy, but outside of that, there wasn’t really anything about the song that hooked me. This was a rare moment on the album where I wasn’t nodding my head or tapping my foot to the music. At almost six minutes, the song also drags on a bit longer than I feel like it needs to. While it is certainly not a bad track, “Static Electricity” marks a low point on the album for me.

“East West Link” has a rustic and almost folky quality to it, especially in the opening of the song. The subtle harmonica is a very nice touch, and the new style is refreshing to the ears. The instrumental then transitions some exciting guitar layers and some more “Woooos” that can be heard on tracks like “Pleura.” Overall, this song provides a subtle yet much-needed change in style while also capturing similar aesthetics as the previous songs. 

The next two tracks, titled “Ataraxia” and “See Me” respectively, are some of the low points on the album, in my opinion. On “Ataraxia” the vocal delivery ruins any enjoyment of the song that I might have had otherwise. The vocals, done by guitarist Joey Walker, sound as though he is delivering his lines while holding back a yawn or a sneeze. This is most clear in the first verse, and it makes the track so unpleasant to listen to. The instrumentation is fine, but not nearly enough to save the track. “See Me,” while not nearly as obnoxious as “Ataraxia,” suffers from the same problems as “Static Electricity.” It is just a fine, middle-of-the-road song that doesn’t separate itself from the rest of the songs on the project.

The closing track entitled “K.G.L.W.” is a fantastic ending to the album. There is a bit of a slow build-up in the beginning, but it soon transitions into eight minutes of an old-school, thundering, metal style that is reminiscent of Black Sabbath. The production is fantastic, and even though this isn’t a style of music I often find myself listening to, I couldn’t help banging my head and playing the drums on my desk while listening to this song.

Overall, this album is incredibly enjoyable and fits very nicely into King Gizzard’s consistent yet diverse catalog of projects. Most of the low points on this album still have enjoyable qualities, and the high points are electric, thrilling, and exciting. I highly recommend not only this album but King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizards discography as a whole.

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