King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Gumboot Soup

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Gumboot Soup

King G. Keeps on Matching Pace with Panache


As stylistically varied and confident as any of King Gizzard’s albums from last year, Gumboot Soup continues the band’s prolific trend without compromising their quality a bit. Upbeat, spooky, rhythmic and atonal (sometimes all at once), you could listen to it a dozen times and still be moved by its sheer unpredictability.

Rating: 8/11


You’d struggle to find a band that worked harder than King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard in 2017. Five albums in 12 months from the same group is a daunting enough task to have to listen to and properly process, let alone record. And – while I didn’t keep up with their output to the degree that I could have – for the most part, I was thoroughly impressed with their consistency, especially on their first release, the acid-psych squawk of Flying Microtonal Banana.

For their last foray, they returned on the final day of last year with Gumboot Soup, which one might assume to be a collection of B-Sides from their four other releases throughout 2017. And you wouldn’t be entirely mistaken: the dusky lo-fi of FMB is present here, as are the theatrical bombast, jazzy shuffle and progressive noodling of Murder of the Universe, Sketches of Brunswick East and Polygondwanaland, respectively. Yet, even with such a conflicting mass of sounds at their disposal, King Gizzard manage to form a coherent, structurally satisfying record from the rubble.

That’s largely because King Gizzard operate so well under the guise of bedlam. For some bands, chaos is an unintentional byproduct of experimentation; for King Gizzard, its the very circumstance that generates their specific sound, and watching them thrive in the midst of it is always a thrill. It’s like watching someone extract an ice sculpture from a roiling tide, or construct a perfect wooden model in the middle of a hurricane. And, as always, it’s difficult to overstate Stu Mackenzie’s contributions here.

The ringleader of this zany, flaming carnival of whoops, hollers and crunchy sonics, Mackenzie has once again exhibited his strength as one of the most ingenious pop songwriters of the decade, earning the distinction alongside fellow Aussies Kevin Parker, Courtney Barnett and Alex Lahey. Much like these reputable figures, Mackenzie understands that “pop” isn’t the result of accessibility but intrigue; in response, he melds his band’s unique style with the trappings of catchy songcraft, but not in a way that compromises their ideals. He doesn’t, in other words, bring his sound to us: he waits patiently for us to follow the trail to him.

With such a rich repertoire already under their belt, though, it’s always nice to hear King Gizzard extend themselves. On “Superposition“, guitarist Joey Walker’s voice takes on an unprecedented digitised shimmer, reminiscent of the warm rush of Julian Casablancas’ showing on Daft Punk’s “Instant Crush“. Meanwhile, Mackenzie’s signature yawping deathrattle is still intact, as evidenced on both the hypnotic “Greenhouse Heat Death” and “The Great Chain of Being“, a drone metal track for people who want to feel like they’re brain is moshing whilst they remain perfectly still.

The group’s chameleonic vocals, expectedly, are matched by the variety of genres that King Gizzard explore with Gumboot Soup. Opening track “Beginner’s Luck” earns Beatles comparisons simply by spinning golden tones and ambiguity into a melody that feels familiar and dangerously alluring all at once. “The Last Oasis” has a warped, spritely bluster which sounds like muzak in a mall elevator that’s slowly descending into hell. And “Down the Sink” requisitions outdoor jazz ambling for the purposes of a peppy shuffle through a neighbourhood that would seem a lot worse if you weren’t punch-drunk.

As mentioned, it’s not just the admirable mix of styles on Gumboot Soup but, also, the structural integrity of it the record that makes it soar. No track is too similar to what preceded it, yet there never seems to be a concerted effort to jar the listener, either. This intentional sequencing becomes even clearer near the end: second-last track “I’m Sleepin’ In” rides handclaps, drones, crepuscular basslines and a wonkish harmonica all the way to its haunting conclusion, which sounds like falling asleep in a whirlpool of time. And, in a nifty bit of symmetry, “The Wheel“, the final song that follows, ends with a rampant tempo upswing directly proportional to the eerie, molasses-like funk “I’m Sleepin’ In” dissolves into.

The sounds are messy, fractured and sometimes atonal, but there’s a haywire pattern here to the placement of the tracks and their contextual purpose that’s all the more satisfying for how buried it is. It lends Gumboot Soup an air of intent which plays nicely off the whirlwind dynamics that inform its music. It shouldn’t be a shock, at this point, but what it boils down to is that King Gizzard have once again delivered on their outlandish promises, to drown us in content while always ensuring to provide us with the means to float endlessly amongst the deluge.

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