Apr 28, 2022
By Kyle Kersey
For two years, Australia’s most relentless rockers King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard couldn’t record together. The pandemic essentially shutdown Melbourne, the band’s base of operations, not allowing the members to engage in the group recording sessions that spawned one of the most eclectic discographies in modern music, littered with genre hopping and fantastical silliness. Of course, that didn’t stop them from recording their parts remotely and releasing three albums during lockdown, followed by a vinyl only release earlier this year. Nice try god, but even pestilence can stop them. Maybe try famine next time?
On Omnium Gatherum, they’ve reunited to create an hour and 20-minute behemoth commemorating their 20th album in half as many years. Most King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard records have some sort of theme or gimmick, such as the environmentalist thrash metal of Infest the Rats Nets, the forever-looping garage rock of Nonagon Infinity, the microtonal tuning explorations of Flying Microtonal Banana, or the all-acoustic dream pop of Paper Mache Dream Balloon, etc. A quick Google search translates Omnium Gatherum as “a collection of miscellaneous people or things” and that’s more or less the gist: a collection of miscellaneous songs that draw from the sounds of albums’ past, while still making room for further exploration.
It kicks off with “The Dripping Tap,” which quickly transitions from Ambrose Kenny-Smith’s soulful serenade of “the dripping tap won’t be turned off by the suits in charge of the world” to an 18-minute psych rock freakout. It’s as though all the restless energy accumulated while cooped up in their southern Australian homes was bottled and then released, improvising over the same driving, uptempo rhythm section that made albums like Nonagon Infinity and I’m In Your Mind Fuzz such ecstatic jams.
However, the rest of the album never makes good on the high-octane, jammy promises of “The Dripping Tap,” instead settling into (mostly) shorter, (mostly) mellower tunes. There’s the electronic pop of “Magenta Mountain,” a sound they were toying with on last year’s Butterfly 3000. The wistful synth-laden instrumentation accompanies our narrator’s obsession with a mythical “magenta mountain” in a sunbaked wasteland. Using Lord of the Rings as a measuring stick, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s approach to fantasy is informed less by Peter Jackson’s sweeping epic vision of Middle Earth than the drugged-out rotoscope animation of Ralph Bakshi. “Evilest Man,” a lament on Rupert Murdoch’s fear-based conservative media empire, synthesizes similar electronic pop elements with bursts of buzzing guitar leads.
“The Garden Goblin” is simultaneously bubbly and sinister, while the astronomy themed “Kepler-22b” stands out as the jazziest cut, where Stu Mackenzie whispers “obsession is good for ya.” Perhaps the strongest of the laid back tunes is the eminently danceable “Presumptuous,” a Latin-influenced jam brought to life by Santana-esque guitar leads, the return of Mackenzie’s flute, and perhaps the grooviest rhythm section of any King Gizzard song.
Mackenzie even reprises his throaty snarl from Infest the Rats Nest on the album’s two metal tracks, “Gaia” and “Predator X.” “Gaia” is the stronger of the two, thrashing through a killer riff and chugging power chords as Mackenzie prophesizes the Earth’s demise: “Gaia sees/Gaia breathes/Gaia’s needs/Incomplete/Gaia bequeaths/Dirt is deceased/Gaia dies/No one sees.”
By far the strangest tracks are when they start rapping, something they’ve never done before (and it kinda shows). More Grandmaster Flash than Kendrick Lamar (if you catch my drift), “Sadie Sorceress” and “The Grim Reaper” are supremely corny and, if we’re honest, novel. Granted, they have a certain campy charm to them: “The Grim Reaper” loops an ominous minimalist synth line reminiscent of old 8-bit dark fantasy games while “Sadie Sorceress” sounds like a distant relative to The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! theme song (are YOU hooked on the brothers?), sampling Kenny-Smith’s 98 year old grandmother. Her voice is shockingly good.
But silly rap songs aside, Omnium Gatherum is, if nothing else, incredibly impressive in its scope. So few bands recording today could create something that’s both this diverse and this well-made; a testament to not just the band’s creativity, but their talent as musicians. Taken as a complete album experience, it’s a little too all over the place to measure up to their most focused work, and its robust length is pretty intimidating. But as a smorgasbord of strange sonic shape-shifting, it’s a pretty fun listen. For longtime fans, it’s incredible to consider how far this group of oddball Aussies have come as musicians since releasing their noisy, rough around the edges debut in 2012. Twenty albums in and they’re still full of ideas. That’s worth celebrating. (www.kinggizzardandthelizardwizard.com)
Author rating: 7/10
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