Five albums. One year. Review.
We’ve made it! The final album review for Australian rock group King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s 2017 five-album series; the previous four have taken place in the past four weeks.
5. Gumboot Soup
They began the year with a promise: five albums by January 1st, 2018. And on December 31st, 2017, they fulfilled their promise with one of their best and most eclectic albums to date, the ever-appropriately title, Gumboot Soup. A meditation of sorts on the ranging styles the band experimented with not only in 2017 but throughout their tenure, the album swings from jazzy, chilled-out tracks in the vein of Sketches and 2015 album Paper Mâché Dream Balloon like Beginner’s Luck, Last Oasis and I’m Sleepin In, to more standard King Gizzard rock on All Is Known and Greenhouse Heat Death to perhaps their heaviest moment yet on veritable stoner rock anthem Great Chain of Being. While referencing nearly explicitly the past twelve months, nearly every track belonging in some small part to the stylizations of one of the four previous albums, the album with surprising ease assumes its own identity, and in a bizarre twist may be the most “complete” of the five, in terms of album coherency and thematic progression. This all due in large part to many of the tracks being the most solid of the year, eschewing, in a manner reminiscent of 2014’s Oddments any notion of “B-side-ness,” with every track paradoxically maintaining a complete sense of originality; in short, there is no recyclation to be found here.
As the most “concept-less” album from band known for, and in cases scorned for, a nearly religious fascination with the concept album, any fan must recognize the wisdom afforded in turn to the band by this move, and I believe my opinion to be in no small minority when I endorse and promote this approach continuing into the band’s tenure; that is, to move away from “pure” concept albums in favor of a more varied approach to genre trappings and stylistic choices in each individual album, an opinion backed in no small part by the fact that perhaps the strongest album of 2017 revels in the fact that it did just that.
Not to say the album is perfect, there are plenty of criticisms to be made, from the awkward way Muddy Water incessantly repeats its main hook, as if trying to force the hook’s rhythmic complexity down the listener’s throat despite it’s relative simplicity in following the rest of the song’s rhythms, (and yet despite that simplicity somehow remaining cluttered) to final track The Wheel’s obscene length of 5:37 in the face of a maybe 3 minute song, to the relative “unfinished” nature of the work, wit