I reacted the way I always react to King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard: just shaking my head in spellbound admiration and laughing at their evidently limitless supply of ideas – half awestruck and half daunted by the mission of trying to put their latest studio album, Fishing For Fishies – due for release tomorrow – into any words other than “wow.” It’s exactly how I would react if I met a swarm of butterflies who could paint hyperrealistic portraits. Digging into this magnificent Gizzard record, I laughed a bit harder than usual, because their creativity is on such a level that I had to consult my middle school band director to figure out what the hell Stu Mackenzie is playing at this point in their latest making-of video, intrinsic artist Jason Galea‘s supremely trippy “How to gut a Fishie.” After some thorough electronic wind instrument (EWI) research, we’re fairly certain it’s a DH-100, one of those Casio Digital Horns from the 1980s no longer in production; secondary guesses include some kind of sax-shaped Lyricon, or a shiny silver sax-a-boom. Knowing how they love their rare and custom-built gear (like the now-famed microtonal banana built by Stu’s friend Zac), nothing would surprise me; Stu swore years ago he would learn a new instrument every year until he dies, and seems to be sticking to it. But all of this was merely a singular side mission, out of sheer KGATLW adoration, in the bigger game of deciphering every addictive aspect of Fishing For Fishies. The main question that bubbled to the surface after many, many listens is simply, “How did they do it this well again?”
When I wasn’t laughing in awe, I found myself whispering variations of “Harp! He’s playing the harp on this one too!” in reference to Ambrose Kenny-Smith’s elegant contributions, shouting a lot of impressed expletives, and getting chills when I picked apart the album’s sneakily profound lyrics. Stu delivers them with terrific rhythm and feeling, typically syncopated, and well backed by Ambrose, as well as guitarists Cook Craig and Joey Walker as they shred. Bassist Lucas Skinner flies through insane and foundational licks, meshing right in with their essential double drummers, Michael Cavanagh and Eric Moore (Eric clearly enjoying his kick drum again). Picking favorites is impossible when King Gizzard keep putting out one killer record after another – guys, this is their fourteenth full-length album – repeatedly resetting the standard and reinventing the genres they explore. If the main factors are being immersively catchy and desert-island-pick worthy, Fishing For Fishies is one of their coolest creations to date. Admittedly, we’re inclined to dig whatever the prolific Australian experimental rockers feel like whipping up, but this is seriously sick stuff; it’s tough to even select favorite songs on Fishies. Suffice it to say that I’m simply not sure what’s wrong with people over here in the states if we don’t end up hearing “This Thing” all over the radio, “Plastic Boogie” blaring in bars, “Boogieman Sam” pumping at company picnics, and “The Bird Song” popping up in kids’ piano recitals. That’s the world I want to live in.
Recently described by Stu as “a record that we didn’t expect to make” and “strangely one of the hardest records that we’ve ever made,” Fishing For Fishies showcases a wild evolution through its nine uniquely-raging tracks. Early fan theories that the album would be an evolution from the more natural, classic sound of “Fishing For Fishies” to the futuristic, electronic sound of “Cyboogie” were pretty damn close. Fom the boys’ perspective, the album was an attempt at “a blues-boogie-shuffle-kinda-thing” that kept evolving, until the tracks were simply organized “in order of how bizarre they got.” “We were trying to make this blues record, but it just kept sliding off,” Stu explained. “We recorded a lot of songs as if they were jams, which is not how we usually make a record, but it just kind of felt right for this,” he revealed, adding, “The songs would just keep on changing, over and over and over and over again. They were stitched together, mashed together, stretched, warped…just bizarre things.”
One of the great ironies about titular first song “Fishing For Fishies” is that it’s not about fishing at all; it’s about not wanting to fish. “I feel so sorry for fishies,” they confess, singing “I just want to let them freely swim” in its fast-ascending chorus. “Boogieman Sam,” one of the early singles they released, is lit aflame by Ambrose’s trademark harmonica chops, and reaches extreme levels of boogie in a blink. “The Bird Song” is a jazzy, groovy, harp-filled treat punctuated by big snappy riffs on the keys. “Plastic Boogie” is already in the running for most important songs released this year, with refreshingly urgent environmental lyrics – “It’s not fantastic / It’s gonna come and kill us / It’s gonna be massive / It’s gonna be brutal / Death will come from plastic / Death will come from people” – set to a wild-party riff that will be an absolute rager live. Immediately after that, “The Cruel Millennial,” whose title alone has fueled some interesting generational discussions among fans, maintains the momentum beautifully; Michael and Eric are relentless with the beat, and it’s a total Ambrose jam as he serves up more searing and bluesy harmonica.
“Real’s Not Real” contains witty commentary on our present era and really gets rocking, memorable not only for its shrewd lyrics, but its impassioned keys, dreamy backup vocals, dark shredding, and some unpredictable sonic twists. “This Thing” is that pure Gizzard magic that just feels utterly awesome; it’s a run-through-the-streets-screaming song in all the best ways, and from the bridge to the end, it just keeps escalating in badassery. “Acarine,” named after the bee-killing disease, begins with a sweltering vibe and painfully describes death from the bee’s perspective: “I am the honeybee / Drink the blood of the tree / I can’t breathe, I can’t see / Evil wind comforts me…” We must note, of course, that they made “Acarine” the B(ee)-side on their recent 7” release. The second half sounds like the start of a mind-blowing space-age theme park ride, leading into its many-keyboard-powered closer, the much-discussed “Cyboogie.” The album’s first single, and perhaps the synthiest moment in Gizz history, it’s accompanied by that amazingly lo-fi robo-video they unveiled first in January.
Even though it’s not part of the album, we’ve got to take a moment to mention (and thank the gods of hardcore music for) “Planet B,” the non-album thrash metal single they dropped out of nowhere ahead of Fishing For Fishies’ release, which is not even part of the aforementioned fishing. Released with a chillingly cool yet murder-ridden video, it casts more light on pressing environmental issues, and all signs point to a heavier album to come – feel that? That’s the familiar thrill of realizing King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are cooking up another record already, before you’ve even heard this one. As we pored over Galea’s just-released “How to gut a Fishie” film, thirteen minutes of behind-the-scenes goodness with the boys, we couldn’t help but wonder if the banger they’re rehearsing at the end is part of the Planet B universe.
The Fishie-gutting video also contains some hilarious scenes during which they seem to be having an intense experience of some kind, like when Eric blankly notes that he’s contemplating his own mortality because he’s having an existential crisis. It’s also rich with insightful glimpses into their musical process and studio dynamic that are fascinating to watch, from Stu verbally suggesting how the drum fill should sound to Ambrose recording harmonica parts outside on the stoop. One of the craziest things that shines through is the reality that they’re just the same old gang of musical dudes; buddies fooling around and snickering at each other’s antics when they’re not quietly composing modern masterpieces like Fishing For Fishies.
Note to locals: King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard will be at Rough Trade in Brooklyn, New York tomorrow for a Q&A and album signing, and we also can’t wait to see them at SummerStage in Central Park on August 28th. More local news in the Gizzverse: The Murlocs – the garage-rock-R&B outfit with whom Ambrose and Cook share their time – are playing The Bowery Ballroom this Saturday (April 27th), and we’re psyched to see them fresh off the release of their new album, Manic Candid Episode. As avid King Gizzard enthusiasts, we’re also eager to learn more about their forthcoming appearance at London’s Alexandra Palace on October 5th, which they say will be their biggest show ever, featuring “a new set, new songs and a whole new visual experience.” You can order Fishing For Fishies here, and you obviously need to. No matter how complete your current Gizzography may be, you’re going to want your own copy of this hard-jamming triumph. We can only hope that the aliens get ahold of this album first if they ever land on our planet.
Article: Olivia Isenhart