Yikes! Here in the Northern Hemisphere the golden days of this years summer are long gone and are slowly replaced by harsh and cold weather conditions. Sudden outbreaks of heavy showers, strong winds and dying trees await us. Therefore, autumn isn’t exactly the best time for most people to be happy about. However, maybe some music from the now warming South could distract our minds from the darkening skies. Hmm, Australia’s ‘60s psych pop rock outfit King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard might just be your imaginative way out of the dull autumn days to come.
What’s in a name? Especially when your band is called King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard? The answer in this case is obvious: nothing much. Indeed the name sounds kinda funny but moreover, it catches the eye. And to catch the eye in a overcrowded neo-psychedelia scene is an important precondition for survival. This is exactly what the the seven-strong collective is doing now by unflinchingly touring all over the world and recording new tracks in Melbourne during the few spare moments they have. In 2012 the band released their first full album, 12 Bar Bruise, on their own label and almost directly continued with two releases in 2013. Sophomore album, Eyes Like the Sky was a bit different because of its spaghetti-western theming, yet Float Along – Fill Your Lungs from that same year was a return to fuzzy ‘60s rock. Oddments, the album we’re reviewing today, is the fourth instalment in the bands short history.
After reading the above you could say ‘energy’ is a key word for King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. Oddments start reflects this in its full glory. The first seconds of ‘Alluda Majaka’ instantly kick in because of an overheated sample of some random Bollywood scene. In a pumping pace the track instrumentally continuous with a jamming organ and hypnotizing bass on the foreground and some non-descriptive samples of martial arts scenes, horses and honking cars on the background. Not bad start to shake things up, but at the same time is nothing special as well. Anyway, now that everyone is awake its time to… doze off… That’s right, for some reason the band decided that the album’s second track to be a complete anti-climax. Although the title suggests otherwise, Stressin’, is a quite yet groovy song that musically strongly taps into the work of Canada’s biggest slacker, Mac DeMarco. Also the manner vocalist Stu Mackenzie’s sings on this track closely resembles someone who happens to live one island further, Connan Mockasin that is. I admit, Stressin’ is nice to hear, but again it’s nothing special. Hereafter, on Vegemite, the band keys up the tempo a bit. The use of distortion in this tracks is ok, but alas, the childish vocal lines makes the whole outline a downright annoying listen. So after three tracks I have to conclude Oddments start is at least incoherent. In terms of musical quality on the other hand, all seems in good order.
Time passes by without noticing in the two tracks that follow Vegemite. Finally the much needed energy returns on ‘ABABCd.’. In a whopping 17-seconds of guitars clashing listeners are supposed to get ready for a smashing second half. Or so I hope. My wish however was not redeemed because ‘Sleepwalker’ continuous on in the same monotonous fashion and degrads ‘ABABCd.’ to a senseless interlude. With a lot of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’, ‘Sleepwalker’ belongs to the albums most catchy tracks. ‘Hot Wax’ could also qualify for this title because of the repetitive surf guitar, the rootsy harmonica and the growling voice box singing. It all fits together perfectly. Hereafter the fun, insofar there was any, is definitely over. For a moment the Summer of Love returns on the dreamy sung ‘Crying’ which could easily had gone through as a Bees song as well. With the rippling ‘Homeless Man in Addidas’ Oddments seems to fizzle away into nothingness. But wait…, the 25-second final instrumental track brings back the loud energetic start of the album. Why? It seems completely unnecessary if you ask me.
To me Oddments is proof of the idea that quantity doesn’t always equal quality. Pressing out four full albums in merely two years time is too much of a good thing for King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. Surely the band is talented and showcases their eye for details. Oddments though is a work of haste. This is particularly evident in the structure of the tracklisting, the high resemblance with other artists from the neo-psychedelia scene and uninspired vocals at times. If you’re interested in acts like Avey Tare, Tama Impala, The Bees, Connan Mockasin, Bed Rugs and Pond, be sure to check out this band. 12 Bar Bruise would be your best start or better yet, I recommend not buying an album at all before seeing them live. I guess King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard is more a band you want to see in real life. At least to give it a try once.
Oh right, will Oddments turn dull autumn days into a shining indian summer? I don’t believe it will. Maybe a watery sun will turn up in your mind, but thats it. If you want to really escape this years autumn, you’d better physically move to Australia for the coming months.
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard will visit the Dutch ‘Le Guess Who?’ festival on November 20th 2014.
Label: Flightless, 2014
- Alluda Majaka (03:34)
- Stressin’ (02:56)
- Vegemite (02:45)
- It’s Got Old (02:58)
- Work This Time (04:36)
- ABABCd. (00:17)
- Sleepwalker (03:46)
- Hot Wax (03:29)
- Crying (02:56)
- Pipe-Dream (01:01)
- Homeless Man In Adidas (03:24)
- Oddments (00:25)
Review by Wander Meulemans // 17102014