I wonder how seriously King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard considered the phrase “quality over quantity” when they committed to their absurd five-album release schedule for 2017. The idea of any band surviving long enough to release five albums is kind of hard to imagine, let alone a band surviving long enough to release five good albums. But King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard was going to do just that in a single year? Alright.
Here we are almost a month into 2018, just enough time to evaluate that schedule’s ultimate payoff. With only hours on the clock before 2017 invariably gave way to 2018, King Gizzard’s Bandcamp announced the release of Gumboot Soup, an eleven-track grab bag that successfully fulfilled the band’s five-album promise.
And Gumboot Soup sure is a grab bag. The album jumps across different psych rock subgenres, bits and pieces making up everything from Canterbury-lite (“Barefoot Desert”) to scuzzy bong metal (“The Great Chain of Being”).
It feels like the rational final act to a five-album spread, where the leftovers of King Gizzard’s 2017 album run finally get a home and leave the Australians with a clean slate.
But who wants to eat leftovers on New Year’s Day? It’s a day for resolutions, to finally eat healthy or learn to cook for yourself! Or maybe it’s a day to nurse a hangover, in which case maybe “scuzzy bong metal” is a descriptor you should ignore. The point is is that as an album of leftovers, Gumboot Soup could probably be substituted for something better, or at least healthier on the ears.
I say this because Gumboot Soup certainly feels like an album of leftovers. It has its charms, to be sure, but ultimately some of the songs here feel out of place, a little tired or watered down compared to reference points both in the King Gizzard catalog and in the psych rock scene as a whole.
“Barefoot Desert,” where some of those hyper-English progressive psych rock tendencies are jammed into a pop song – a recurring theme for King Gizzard – is messy in the least interesting ways, too focused for exploration but too loose to not inspire at least a little bit of carsickness. It’s well produced and hints toward King Gizzard’s pop-minded translation skills, but it’s also a nauseating piece of work.
I don’t want to pick on “Barefoot Desert” alone, though. I have a similar list of complaints to lodge against “The Last Oasis,” “The Wheel” and “Down the Sink,” even if every song has a detail here or there that shows there was a good idea behind the scenes. (I really liked the groove and instrumentation to “Down the Sink,” for example, even if the pop melody at the center is lost on me. And the drum fills on “The Wheel” are like angels tapdancing.) Maybe there’s a reason it’s the songs that pull from King Gizzard’s jazz hands that are the most off-putting. Maybe it’s just this reviewer’s taste that prefers King Gizzard as a garage band than as an obtuse Aqualung imitation.
As a quick note, the record’s least obtuse Aqualung imitation, the opening track “Beginner’s Luck,” maybe the most indulgent song on the album, somehow also translates as one of the best. The hollowed-out vocals in the hook are weirdly ticklish, and the more colorful instrumentals sound focused and trained on the melody. The amplifier fire at the end is like a plastic version of a Cream guitar fill, and it’s one of the most exciting moments on the album.
Likewise, more aggressive and apocalyptic tracks, like “The Great Chain of Being” and “Greenhouse Heat Death” are also hefty listenings, where the more psychedelic tinges don’t distract while their metallic groans actually throw a few interesting fists.
Ultimately, Gumboot Soup was probably a healthy detox for the band. The amount of material they put out in 2017 is insane for a pop-minded rock band, and the remains of cast aside songs probably hung more like an albatross than the well-minded trimmings of perfectionism. Still, maybe there were some songs that should’ve been left on the cutting room floor, a few dishes that shouldn’t have been left in the Tupperware containers on the refrigerator shelf.
If you want to, you can go on Spotify right now and just let it play Black Sabbath on loop for the next 12 hours. You don’t even have to be there to listen to it! And then some algorithm somewhere is going to spazz out and shift some code around somewhere so that Spotify serves you up an infinite playlist of music that sounds like Black Sabbath. This process requires absolutely no effort from you. You can do this for any band! Or you can just go to the “Related Artists” thing and just listen to the most popular songs from bands similar to Black Sabbath. Or, you little rable-rouser you, you could click on “About” and find out which album some poor soul chained to a chair in the offices of AllMusic said was the best one and listen to that.
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With the unholy gates of musical serendipity creaking open in front of your pathetic undeserving face, why in all of god’s creation are you listening to a bunch of wastoids called Lizzard Blizzard & the Boys Out Back do shitty impersonations of ’60s and ’70s rock? Do you realize they put out 5 albums in 2017? And this is the last one? This is the one they scraped off the sides of the microwave after they were done reheating that first album over and over.
They let this baby congeal, my brother.
Didn’t I just tell you you can go listen right now to basically any album that has ever come out? You can go loop the first three seconds of “The Fish” by Yes over and over again if you want! Can’t do that on vinyl now can ya? Spotify reminds you that Tales From Topographic Oceans is available now on vinyl, direct from the artist page! $35!
We’ve strayed so far from God. This album is the classic rock equivalent of that South Park episode where it’s Heavy Metal but everyone is just high on cat piss. Kingly Gizzard could have created an official spotify playlist called “Molten Rock” or “Pumped Up Rock Workout” or “Indie Tea Coffee House Exhale” or whatever they deem appropriate and just filled it with 10 songs they like that sound like this because those definitely 100% exist and are almost assuredly better and they could have had that show up on your Spotify main page if you’ve ever listened to Queens of the Stone Age and I’d give that shit a 5 at least.