Band: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard | Album:Changes | Genre: Progressive rock, Psychedelic rock | Year: 2022
From: Melbourne, Australia | Label: KGLW
For fans of: Traffic, Once & Future Band
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are nothing if not prolific. Since debuting a mere decade ago, this band has put out twenty-three studio albums (plus an album of remixes, two sets of demos, and a ton of live releases), with Changes being their twenty-third overall, their fifth of 2022, and their third of the month of October, 2022. Not only have they been prolific, but their output has been consistently diverse. To call them genre chameleons would be underselling them; genre octopuses would better suit their radical stylistic shifts.
(Note that a lot of my octopus comment is due to people overselling chameleons’ abilities to change color. I have a pet chameleon, and he certainly does change color, but it’s not for camouflage. They change color to express their mood or to absorb more or less heat. And it’s not like it’s a massive shift in color. It’s more like an adjustment in intensity and saturation. Be sure to come back next week when I change the name of this site to TheEliteHerpetologist.com.)
Where was I? Oh right, lizards! Specifically of the magical variety and the monarchs of certain digestive organs with which they associate.
October 2022 saw KGLW release their jazziest album to-date with Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms and Lava, and some of those jazz flavors carry over to this release as well.
Changes starts with the semi-eponymous 13-minute “Change”. Warm electric piano and gently skittering drums push this song along in its opening moments. Stu Mackenzie’s vocals are gently muttered and lightly processed, adding to the dreamlike state. As this piece progresses, it becomes clear that the title works in tandem with the song’s structure. The base of the verse repeats multiple times, interrupted by occasional soft resets. But with each reset, there’s some new element added. Bass is given a prominent role throughout, alongside guitar embellishments and a strong sense of building tension.
Squeaky synthesizers lead the bridge melody, lending a tight, eager energy which smoothly segues into a moment of obvious soul and R&B influence. Krautrock flavors then emerge with otherworldly synths and a simple but insistent rhythm. By this passage’s end, the synth lead is giving me flashes of Keith Emerson.
In the final three minutes, the song shifts back to its original verse template. But as everything builds up, instead of cutting out, “Change” explodes in a climactic, psychedelic cavalcade of fuzzed-out guitars.
“Change” leads smoothly into the pre-release single, “Hate Dancin’”. I wasn’t crazy about this song at first, but it has grown on me and works better in the context of the album than on its own. It keeps the overall sound palette of “Change”, with electric piano and gentle vocals. Additional flutes also add some nice textures.
Outer-space synths and funky bass kick off “Astroturf”. The vocal cadence is staccato, and weird blasts of brass add unusual punctuation to the lines. These strange moments are interpolated with gentler, fluid moments. I really like the funkier influences on this cut, particularly in the flute and bass solos. I would never have thought of “funk flute” as a thing, but it makes sense given the genre’s frequent utilization of other wind instruments. (That, and I’m just simply not very familiar with funk.) Despite having a lot of good elements, “Astroturf” does run a hair longer than it needs to.
A mournful, bluesy guitar lick is the first thing you hear in “No Body”. The tempo is relaxed, though it doesn’t drag. This is a decent enough bit of psychedelia, but it’s hardly an essential cut.
If you’re looking for an essential KGLW song, however, look no further than “Gondii”. (This is actually the second song about toxoplasmosis I’ve covered this year, the first being Hypnotic Floor’s “Toxo”.) A throbbing electronic pulse propels this song, and there’s a strong sense of urgency. It’s tight, powerful, and catchy all at the same time. Krautrock and space rock converge to make this an instant classic within The Gizz’s oeuvre.
“Exploding Suns”, meanwhile, is my least favorite song on the album. It’s not bad, but it does feel aimless. It floats along gently, with acoustic guitar and electric piano providing most of the minimalistic backing. There are some cool synthesizers in the middle, but that doesn’t make up for the overall dullness of the piece.
Changes ends on the appropriately-titled “Short Change”. It’s a three-minute revisitation of ideas from the album opener, and it’s a great way to close the record. It’s an energetic flurry of guitars and keyboards which acts as a strong bookend. Plus, I just love the dumb wordplay of the album title against this and its 13-minute counterpart.
King Gizzard’s newest album might not be their strongest or most groundbreaking, but it’s definitely in the top quartile. It’s fun, jazzy, proggy psychedelic rock. Even the weak cuts aren’t that bad, and the high points are especially high.