Los Angeles – It is official: the garage/psych revivalist movement has hit the point of no return. Simply put, there are very few groups capable of creating original sounds by weaving a pastiche out of the fuzz, skronk, and reverb-drenched vocals that have become clichés of so many modern bands. The genre is quickly becoming a parody of itself, with dozens of nearly indistinguishable bands creating music at an ever-more-frequent clip. Amazingly, there are still a handful of artists who have the creative vision, compositional talent, and willingness to take the risks required to create refreshing takes on the classic sound. Melbourne, Australia’s King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard is one such group.
Released via ATO Records, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s Paper Mâché Dream Balloon marks an ever-so-slight departure from their earlier recordings. Completely gone is the fuzzy guitar noodling heard on previous releases like I Am Your Mind Fuzz – a departure towards Paper Mâché which was hinted at on 2015’s Quarters!. And yes, you read that right: this is the band’s second full-length in a year, and their seventh since 2012, displaying a prolificacy only matched by Ty Segall and Tim Presley.
From the first moment of the opener “Sense”, it is clear that this will be yet another departure for King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. Breezily strummed guitars are joined by a soothing saxophone solo, backed up by the occasional whistle slides. “Bone” carries a melody akin to Strawberry Alarm Clock’s “Incense and Peppermints” while prominently featuring Stu Mackenzie’s flute, which is a crucial component to the band’s sound. There are times which it can feel a bit excessive and maybe even trite – take for example, the verse of the title track, “Paper Mâché Dream Balloon”. But these moments are easy to forget when they are redeemed by brilliant transitions like the song’s blissful chorus.
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard do everything big, including the size of the band itself. Consisting of seven members – Ambrose Kenny Smith, Cook Craig, Eric Moore, Joey Walker, Lucas Skinner, Michael Cavanagh, and the previously mentioned Mackenzie, they harness a vast well of musical expertise on Paper Mâché Dream Balloon. There’s no wasted space on this album – every millimeter of the mix is filled by harmonicas, guitars, saxophones, flutes, and any other instrument the band could get its hands on. Combining this rich variety of instrumentation with distortion-free guitar work has made for a neo-psych album that stands out amongst the crowd. The midway point of Paper Mâché Dream Balloon, “Cold Cadaver”, is its high-water mark. With falsetto vocals and a dazzling array of instrumentation, the song continually picks up momentum before reaching its sitar/harmonica/flute addled hook.
Despite peaking towards its middle, there is enough variety sprinkled throughout Paper Mâché Dream Balloon that makes for a very quick and pleasant listen. “Trap Door” has a bit of Ariel Pink’s quirkiness, “Bitter Boogie” throws in a little Southern-blues attitude and “N.G.R.I . Bloodstain” is old-school rock ‘n roll perfection. Meanwhile, “Time=Fate”, “Time=$$$”, and “Most of What I Like” follow the formula that was perfected on Side 1. “Paper Mâché” closes out the album with an instrumental medley of the previous 11 songs, giving it a nice lounge-y bookend to the opener.
It’s incredible that King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard finds time to record all this music, because they are perpetually on the road (Read our live review here). 2016 is looking like a very busy year for the band, with tours planned for the United Kingdom and Europe as well as the United States and Canada. Before the New Year, they will play a couple dates in their home-country of Australia.
Check the King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard tour page for tickets.
Photo Credit: Jason Galea