King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard fandom goes like this:
• Pride – listener feels as if they’ve heard this music already from bands like Thee Oh Sees and Roky Erikson, and shrugs them off.
• Respect – as they start to realize how frequently they have a record in the new release pile, listener begins to appreciate how much material the band puts out.
• Breaking Point – listener has an experience, either at a KG&TLW concert or shuffling their seemingly endless catalogue at a party, where they realize that there are few songs that aren’t a blast to listen to.
After that, it’s easy to consider the septet as one of the coolest bands in the psychedelic sphere alongside other Aussie mainstays like Tame Impala, The Drones, and even Nick Cave. Flying Microtonal Banana is the first of five records the band plans to put out in 2017. But, it’s useful to try and ignore these items when listening to the record. There’s a lot of nuance in these songs that, no matter how hard it may be, deserves to be considered as more than a cog in the King Gizzard factory.
At first glance, FMB is a conservative release – shorter length, plenty of the krautrock propulsion the band are known for, lots of nods to sixties and seventies psych and metal. Follow the voice that repeats the chorus of “Rattlesnake”, and you’ll find yourself back at track one. This and “Open Water” go on longer than necessary, but it’s clear that this was intentional. Instead, think of the devil face that sings along in the “Rattlesnake” video. Think of the feeling drummers Eric Moore and Michael Cavanagh get while jamming at such lengths. Think of King Gizzard as the positive homage they are, not as the quantity-over-quality rip-offs they aren’t.
Besides, there are plenty of tracks with a more digestible length. “Nuclear Fusion” is the shit, playing staccato guitar grooves off lyrics that connect the human race via quantum mechanics. “Sleep Drifting” is the romantic counterpart to many of the apocalyptic themes: “I can feel you touch me/and I can hear you breathing/please no one wake me/when I’m sleep drifting.” Like this, many of the lyrics are mostly about rhythm and style than the words themselves. On “Doom City”, the chorus is bolstered by an erratic Turkish horn, blaring microtones all over Stu Mackenzie’s tale about the city air ripping him apart from the inside. A guitar the band fashioned to mimic these same tones piles more middle-eastern imagery on top of more than half of the tracks.
Like last year’s Nonagon Infinity, King Gizzard’s performances are muscular and relentless. Though the songs still fade into one another, FMB is far more compact. Even after a few listens, it’s very difficult not to reconsider just how much the band have out, and how much they have yet to this year alone. Is this the best snapshot of a band with so much to give? You’ll be battling these demons as you listen. That said, almost every idea sticks on Flying Microtonal Banana. Their homemade studio occasionally shows its flaws, but this is simultaneously heartening. King Gizzard are easy to forgive and fun to like, showing that it’s more than a record about reliving psychedelic music’s prototypes.