LIVE REPORT: King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard
, February 23rd, 2016 20:24
Josh Gray reports from London's The Electric Ballroom
Photo by Rachel Lipsitz
Let's all just take a moment to step back and reflect on what's been happening in realm of Australian music over the past decade, particularly across the southern coast. To say that the once arid musical wasteland from whence INXS, AC/DC and a slew of other acronymic cock-rockers emerged in the pre-Internet age has undergone something of a renaissance would be an understatement. Since the country seemed to belatedly invent the Internet in the mid noughties, the musical landscape both down under and up over has been reshaped dramatically. For us on the other side of the planet this feels a bit like turning over a large, funny shaped piece of deadwood to discover an underside seething with all manner of bejewelled beetles.
Imagine an ageing Australian Triple J alumni doing a retrospective on this era in half a century's time. The language of a Triple J DJ in 50 years time would probably sound similar to the manner in which many a baby boomer would speak of the 60s over here: a continued combination of reverence and surprise that our corner of the world was once the most exciting epicentre of worldwide musical innovation. It's no secret that history tends to repeat itself when individual regions and nations rise to global musical prominence; when the stars align and one specific scene just happens to produce a crop of highly acclaimed bands at the same time, the subsequent label feeding frenzy will always accidentally drag a few peripheral underground bands that God never intended to see the light of day gasping and blinking up into the limelight. Thank fuck that this happened to King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard, the Australian Invasion's equivalent of The Pretty Things, tactically holding onto the right bands' coattails to nab the kind of international acclaim meant for a real, serious band.
Everything about their show on Thursday is just as unlikely as their status as Electric Ballroom headliners. They segway violently between medieval twelve string lullabies and overdriven headbangers with more fuzz than Mel Gibson's used wax strips. But it's never distracting. In fact, each twist and turn the band take through their extensive back catalogue seems, judging by the crowd's glazed grins, to complement each individual's trip perfectly (one of the funnier activities of the evening was trying to guess which drug each audience member was on by the voracity of their dance moves).
Despite their headcount, the octet never seem to step on each other's toes or spin off into chaos. This is achieved by the stellar work of drummers Michael Cavanaugh and Eric Moore. By no means does the night's performance require two drummers who, for the most part, play the exact same thing. But once the pair lock in they function as the Annie and Clarabel of the outfit, setting the steady, propulsive rattle that keeps the good train Gizzard rolling forward at a breakneck pace.
Any band that can release eight albums and two EPs in a career spanning no more than six years is going to have to sacrifice song quantity for quality. So, its a shame that only 'Trapdoor', 'N.G.R.I.' and the indomitable 'The River' get a look in from 2015's albums Paper Mâché Dream Balloon and Quarters! (the latter song's soothing twists and turns wonderfully accompanied by an assortment of frazzled cartoon crocodiles and burnt out turtles floating across the backing screen), it's worth the sacrifice to be able to witness the full 'I'm In Your Mind/I'm Not In Your Mind/I'm In Your Mind Fuzz' wig out in all its glory.
The whole affair is somehow both grand and ramshackle at the same time, as though the band fell through a wormhole from a muggier parallel universe where every band releases an album each morning, take hits from the bong all afternoon and then stride out into their gently drifting gardens to play before crowds of infinite mass and colour in the evening. Take me with you King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard, yours is the brightest of all alternate timelines.