Album Review: King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – L.W.

[Flightless; 2021]

It is never a pretty sight when a band one is quite fond of begins putting out formulaic records. In the case of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, they’re not repeating a formula to appeal to a larger audience, but rather one for that appeals to their existing fanbase. This type of formula is not necessarily bad, as it aims to replicate a former honest musical effort, and there are certainly musicians who have been successful at this type of pursuit. Just look at Led Zeppelin; the main reason they were successful at it was that they managed to disguise the fact that there was a formula at play. Only upon closer consideration does one note strong similarities in song structure, lyrical themes, and whatever else. Nonetheless, they got a pass because they were always honest in their songwriting and it is perfectly reasonable that the same four people write all their music in a very similar manner. However, that is sadly not the case for this Australian psychedelic outfit.

After some beloved early albums, the band became more widely recognizable in 2017, which saw them aiming (and succeeding) to release a total of five full-length albums. An outside observer would be correct to note that with such abundance of new music it would be difficult to expect the quality to remain high throughout these records. However, that turned out not to be the case. Not only were the five albums all worthwhile, they also saw the band experiment with a new sound on each effort. Perhaps the most notable album from that year was Flying Microtonal Banana, where King Gizzard mixed their psychedelic sound with microtonality and a twist of krautrock. It was so interesting that, listening to a track like “Rattlesnake” in headphones, one could only imagine the crowd at a live show going absolutely berserk when it’s played.

L.W. is the second album after last year’s K.G. that sees them reverting from their thrash metal foray of 2019’s Infest The Rats’ Nest back to the microtonality of Flying Microtonal Banana. On the new album they’re certainly trying to mimic the success of Banana, not only in microtonality but also in mixing, which makes the record sound like it was all captured in a single take.

However, it misses most all of its marks. With ample vocal lines that follow the guitar melodies and repetitive psychedelic motifs in melodies, the majority of songs on this record could not be called anything but boring; even the tracks that have a lot of drive feel kind of sleepy. It seems that there is a great deal of effort lacking on this record. Most tracks begin in an intriguing way but then squander their potential, either by endlessly repeating the same melody or by introducing some very generic rock guitars.

There were a few interesting efforts on the album, such as the closing “K.G.L.W.”, which sees the band mixing together the microtonality and psychedelic sounds of theirs with the metal-style riffs of Infest the Rats’ Nest, creating something reminiscent of Blood Incantation’s Hidden History of the Human Race. Another noteworthy track is “Static Electricity”, which takes the Eastern motifs up a notch and sounds like desert rock if both words were taken literally. There’s also “Ataraxia”, which stands out for its alternative riffs and vocals that are reminiscent of early Tame Impala, although in the context of the album it is a bit of an outlier.

While listening to L.W. it’s hard not to stop thinking that they’re trying to repeat Flying Microtonal Banana, which is by no means a good quality as these thoughts drown out this new effort. Setting this to the side and trying to appreciate L.W. on its own terms, the best that can be said is that there are a few good tracks in an otherwise mediocre album.