Artist: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
Album: Paper Mache Dream Balloon
Label: Heavenly Recordings
For fans of: Tame Impala, POND
Standout tracks: Sense, Time Fate, Most of What I Like
Australian psych has really hit its stride in the past five or so years, with Wolfmother an arguable precursor to the movement which has spawned acts like Pond, Tame Impala and the almost farcically named King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, who return with their seventh full length record, the equally imaginatively titled Paper Mache Dream Balloon.
The seven-piece psych-garage-whatevertakestheirfancy have always had something of an overcrowded sound, a little muddled without a hell of a lot of direction or cohesion, and this record is not a lot different, but this time it’s made with only acoustic instruments. Aren’t we all so lucky?
The album opens with a promising blues/R’n’B style acoustic riff which starts off ‘Sense’, a laid back track with a bluesy Belle & Sebastian feel, even perhaps promising a real, marked style shift.
Alas, we were fooled. ‘Bone’ immediately acts as a reminder to the band to play garage-psych again, but this time there’s a difference – it’s with acoustic instruments. Didn’t see that one coming, did you? Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a band having an identity and a nailed down stylistic vision, but when your frontman says “I always wanted to be a band where you would expect the unexpected each time, with each album being treated like a different phase,” you kind of want him to follow through on that.
It’s all well and good being a psych-garage-whatever band but releasing a psych-garage-whatever album basically exactly like all your others, just with acoustic instruments instead of electric isn’t exactly pushing the boat out. That’s not to mention the fact that he actually consciously wanted to change style on every album (which clearly hasn’t happened) rather than letting the band’s sound grow organically, through experience and experimentation. It’s a weird idea of forced change that isn’t followed up on. It’s all a bit safe and nice, and frankly a bit boring.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though: some of the melodies work pretty nicely, ‘Most Of What I Like’ being a good example of this, as well as aforementioned opening track ‘Sense’ and ‘Time Fate’. These are good songs and they work well, but it’s hard to really build an entire album around the idea of playing the same style just substituted with acoustic instruments. It reeks of laziness or possibly even complacency and patronises the listener.
There are plenty of bands who make a living playing the same style all their career, you could make a list as long as your arm. But the best artists, the most respected and the most revered, are the ones who challenge themselves and change it up.
Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, even The Strokes or King Gizzard’s fellow countrymen Tame Impala have all reinvented themselves or organically mutated over their career. But maybe it’s too much to ask for King Gizzard to be as bold as to aspire to be amongst the best in popular music, but if that’s not what they want to do, then what are they doing?