For those that follow my blog, they might remember one of my first Music Challenges where I listened to an album based off the band’s name, album cover or name of the album. I picked King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s album strictly because of their band name. And to my surprise, I really loved the album. When I saw they had a new album out, I naturally gravitated toward it and gave it a spin…a lot of spins.
Their new album is called ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’ and is their 9th studio album since 2012..that is right…9th!! They also are planning on releasing not one, not two, but FIVE albums this year. Pretty ambitious and we will wait and see if they actually able to achieve said goal.
The band is out of Australia and actually has seven members.
- Stu Mackenzie – lead vocals
- Ambrose Kenny Smith – keyboards/synthesizer
- Joey Walker – lead guitar
- Cook Craig – rhythm guitar
- Lucas Skinner – bass guitar
- Eric Moore – drums
- Michael Cavanagh – drums
The current release has nine tracks and is as wild and experimental sounding as the last release. Where the last release was one continuous song basically broken up into 9 parts and the music never stopped playing, this album went a little more traditional where you could tell when one song ended and the other began.
The greatest part of the album was how much is going on musically. There are so many instruments and sounds that I feel like I discovered a new sound every time I listened to the album. To give you an idea of what instruments are being played, here is a list.
Drums, Bongos, Microtonal Guitar, Microtonal Bass, Microtonal Harmonica, Piano, Synthesizers, bagpipes (which probably came from the synthesizers), a Zurna (a woodwind instrument) and so many different percussion instruments I couldn’t name them all if I tried. And of course the vocals which were more like an instrument than a focal point.
What is a Microtonal? Well, I looked it up and per Bruno Nettl at Britannica.com:
Microtonal music, music using tones in intervals that differ from the standard semitones (half steps) of a tuning system or scale. In the division of the octave established by the tuning system used on the piano, equal temperament, the smallest interval (e.g., between B and C, F and F♯, A♭ and A) is the semitone, an interval also measured as 100 cents. There are thus 12 equal semitones, or 1,200 cents, to the octave; these in sequence constitute the chromatic scale. Western tuning systems that were more common before about 1700 divided the octave into semitones of varying size.
As a non-musician, that cleared it up for me…yeah…no!
The style of music is really hard to explain and must be listened to truly understand. It is an experience. The style ranges from psychedelic, acid, progressive, rock, and very experimental in my opinion.
The opening track hears the wind blowing in and the music strikes up and you immediately get a feel for what I am trying to say about their sound. The only thing about the opening song that puts me off is the continuous repetitiveness of the song title “Rattlesnake”. You pull that out and you have a nice groove and overall pleasing song. However, that “Rattlesnake” over and over drove me crazy plus at almost 8 minutes it was too long. When I heard this as the first single, I was a little nervous for the whole album.
That nervousness ended with the second song, “Melting”. The slower pace and the way the vocals stepped through with the keyboards had me hooked. There were some nice guitar riffs and sounds as well as the drums on the song kept up a great beat throughout. The band comes across as more of a jam band and I could only imagine how these guys are live.
“Open Water” opens up with a great drum beat and a killer guitar riff. They definitely turn it up on this one for a more rocker sound and faster beat. The progressive rock is on display again as we have another song over 7 minutes, but this one doesn’t drag for me as it flies right by as you absorb their musical styling.
“Sleep Drifter” keeps the pace up, but less rocker. The vocals go to a higher register and a more straight forward song with an actual melody.
Next up is one of the more interesting songs, “Billabong Valley”. I had to look up if there was a place called Billabong Valley, but only found a children’s book company in Australia called Billabong Valley. The song has a completely different feel from the rest of the album and is probably my favorite song on the album. It sings about someone named Mad Dog Morgan and has a whole western feel to it despite the occasional bagpipe sound. Overall, a very cool song.
“Anoxia”, which means an absence of oxygen (I had to look the word up), is the next song. Nice grooves and drum work again. Not an outstanding song and not one of my favorites. For a band that is so experimental and crazy sounding, this one was kind of boring and absence of the magic.
“Doom City” picks it right back up and increases the pace. The eerie guitar work and all richness of sounds brings this song to life. There is so much going on that I would listen intently. It has an infectious groove and beat. Another favorite.
“Nuclear Fusion” opens with a fun beat and then goes into a monster voice screaming Nuclear Fusion before the bass line comes in and they get into a funky rhythm. The band’s charm comes through on the song.
The final song is the all instrumental title track “Flying Microtonal Banana” and is way too short at under 3 minutes. The song is pure magic from the opening African sounds to the bagpipes. It is pure bliss for me and hated it for being too short. I could of listened to this for as long as they wanted to play. The music is really what makes me love this band.
- “Rattlesnake” – Delete
- “Melting” – Keeper
- “Open Water” – Keeper
- “Sleep Drifter” – Keeper
- “Billabong Valley – Keeper
- “Anoxia” – Delete
- “Doom City” – Keeper
- “Nuclear Fusion” – Keeper
- “Flying Microtonal Banana” – Keeper
7 keepers out 9 songs – 78% (3.9 out 5 stars) King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are the most unique band I listen to and one of my new favorites. The abundance of sound and their musical styling are what keep me coming back. It is not for everyone, but it is worth at least a listen to see if you will like it. I took a chance on their last album and now they have a new fan.