Album Review: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, “Quarters!”

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard  Quarters!
(Castle Face Records – May 1, 2015)
(Psychedelic, Rock)
Review by William Flourance

When entering the dating pool it’s best to keep your options open. In an effort to meet new people, you might find yourself at a friend’s swampy summer house show, where you meet the person that will occupy the next 6 to 8 weeks of your romantic life. This new prospect thinks you are cute so they hand you a can of watermelon infused pale as you begin to talk music. You seem to have so much in common, as you’re both huge fans of Ariel Pink and only buy physical album copies on vinyl and cassette. The deal gets sweeter when you notice a Syd Barrett pin on their jacket, and a stick and poke tattoo on their wrist. When you begin to discuss current obsessions they mention a new band with a ridiculous name you have never heard before…

King Gizzard & The Wizard Lizard might just be the soundtrack to your next off-kilter summer fling. With their warped sense of bubblegum combined with alchemical voicing on each instrument, they are formulaic enough to follow, but still distant enough to maintain offbeat appeal. They are the exact kind of band to compliment a thrills-no-frills kind of intimacy that finds comfort in experimentation.

Hailing from Melbourne, they have rapidly emerged from the head soup bubbling down under. With seven members and a dozen records in a five year span, the band has surfaced as the freakiest head yet of the South Pacific Pysch Hydra. Their most recent effort Quarters! is loosely thematic record cut into four parts, each precisely 10 minutes and 10 seconds long. Each composition gives equal weight to zoned-out passages and earworm melodies that dial in somewhere between warbling playground songs and fractured beach pop.

Just as fellow Aussies Tame Impala have abandoned their filter-heavy shroud of feedback for a more hi-fi direction, King Gizzard seem to have made a deal with Father Time to stay relevant while making music that is effortlessly evocative of headshop themes. Though the band is known for full-blown freakout rippers like “Cellophane” off their previous release I’m In Your Mind Fuzz, King Gizzard now find themselves in a pleasantly cohesive and meditative stride.

Album opener “The River” is a mystic sort of waltz that harkens vibes from Piper at the Gates of Dawn. The spattering swing-tempo cymbals skip like pebbles through clouds of stardust, while suspended chords pulse like an aurora borealis. After 10 minutes of a sublime gallop through the cosmos, the band takes a sharp drop from weightlessness into the black hole vacuum that segues into “Infinite Rise”. This entry is a stop and go romp of effect-pedal sorcery that erupts with a venom spitting guitar lick. Vocalist Stu Mckenzie warbles shamanic chanting in a broken falsetto as his band members carry his adages through a carnival parade of smokey hi-jinks.

Though the followup “God is in the Rhythm” lands as an uninventive nod toward beach bands, it does prepare the listener for the album’s main attraction and final track “Steel Sheet Flyer”. This is Mckenzie’s strongest vocal performance, an inescapable bounce that smears dayglow paint on the albums crushed velvet cloak. The band coalesces with masterful fluidity as well, highlighted by a slippery guitar line that bubbles like the hot technicolor wax in a lava lamp.

Ultimately, Quarters! is a not-so-serious band’s take on reproducing the highs and lows of hallucinatory 1970s ephemera, aimed to satisfy a quota for weirdness that your more bohemian love interests are certain to admire. The group could have easily dropped a polished formal release, but without tape fizz and and mind-bending antics they could risk receiving too much exposure. The flaws of this record are the marks of a consciously far-out group, decisions made to gain appeal with the house show crowd. Though each track is fully realized, a full length record with only four songs on it makes it feel less substantiative. In that sense Quarters! mirrors a seasonal affair that merely satisfies a need to explore, a reminder to keep an open mind if you really want to enjoy yourself.

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