Author: Bruce Jenkins Date Posted:27 September 2018
A couple of times recently I’ve been asked, “Do you like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard?” and it’s been a tricky question to answer.
I admire their work ethic (thirteen or so releases in just six years, including five albums in 2017) if not always their quality control. The band’s restless creativity is awe inspiring but this also has a dark side: you just never know what you’re getting.
So do I like King Gizzard?
I like their surging psychedelia, the distortion laden songs that teeter on the edge of collapse. And when they dress up in flowing acoustic hippy garb, they are as delightful as a riot of flowerbeds in an inner-city back yard. However their free jazz experiments leave me cold; there’s little evidence that they get the style at all.
But when they turn up the amps, prod the dual drummers into action and inject some Hawkwind-style power into their lysergic space jams, well then, my friends, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are simply thrilling. And here’s the good news: Nonagon Infinity, the band’s sole LP from 2016, delivers on that last description with ease.
Fading in, then exploding with amphetamine energy, “Robot Stop” is an attention-grabbing curtain raiser. Both heavy and catchy, the song’s chanting vocals, pounding rhythm section, harmonica break and guitar lines pack everything King Gizzard does into the opening five minutes. The momentum is so super-charged it carries you deep into the album via the electric space blues of “Gamma Knife” and more riffing ferocity (but with much-needed breathing spaces) in “People-Vultures”. Sometimes it feels like there is just one song, churning ever onwards.
Opening side two, “Mr Beat” has pixie vocals, Doors organ, and a very catchy, er, beat. Great fun and a lighter moment in the infinity of the nonagon. But the lightness does not last. “Evil Death Roll” has a driving intensity that will delight those who always wanted Black Sabbath to go in search of space. With some analogue synths and another reprise of the title refrain “nonagon infinity open the door”, this seven minute epic is the centrepiece of the album.
Segueing one track into the next gives the LP a sense of one long trip; sometimes—“Invisible Face” into “Wah Wah” for example—the division between songs seems almost arbitrary. But in a way that’s the point of Nonagon Infinity, it is a nine-track excursion into inner/outer space; full of psychedelic effects, powerful rhythms, daft lyrics and the joy of rocking out like there is no tomorrow. Nowhere is this better illustrated than the final song, “Road Train”, that thunders along like a 70s heavy rock behemoth then fades where “Robot Stop” began forty-two minutes earlier.
Perhaps the jury is still out on King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, but there is something I am certain of: Nonagon Infinity is one of their best. And the vinyl is very pretty too.
© Bruce Jenkins 2018