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King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Murder Of The Universe Brian Coney , July 10th, 2017 16:13

Picture yourself on a boat on a river. It's leaking. The spectre of Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson has just fed you some DMT. He then puts Van Der Graaf Generator on one beaten-up tape-deck, and a heady hardcore punk classic on another. The sky turns purple and begins to slowly glide towards you. You have entered the realm of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s new record. You decide to ignore the leak.

Over the course of nine albums of varyingly shaded garage-psych sorcery, the Melbourne band have shown that ambition and eccentricity – just like sonic multiplicity and sheer batshit bravura – are far from irreconcilable. No real surprise, then, that on album number ten, the Stu Mackenzie-fronted troupe conclusively perforate any notion of the virtue of taking oneself seriously via a triptych of tales that tussle with temptation, human/beast hybridity, future consciousness, hyper-digitalism and more across 45 minutes of brazen – at times dazzling – exhibitionism that isn’t as much a breathless journey as it is a stratospheric trip for chronic asthmatics.

Bleeding into soft focus by way of a bed of Carpenter-esque synths and the soothing opening words of the album’s first narrator Leah Senior (think the ultra-chill guide on Parquet Courts’ ‘Already Dead’ via Neighbours), the album’s first chapter, ‘Altered Beast 1-4’ aims straight up the jugular. A progged-out tetralogy conjuring the hectic hardcore thrust of last year’s Nonagon Infinity, it sees harmonica, synth, mellotron and a slew of shapeshifting rhythmic patterns congeal in a swirl that stems as much from the more cosmically inclined highpoints of Hawkwind and Amon Düül II as it does, say, Yes and Rush at their most insistent. Linked by Senior’s omniscient ‘Altered Beast’ segues – and bolstered by some exquisite musicianship – Mackenzie paints a lysergic-dappled scene that proves equal measures marvellously daft and (if you submit) genuinely engrossing.

As with many of their previous releases, not least on February’s Flying Microtonal Banana, Murder of the Universe doesn’t even flirt with the idea of pausing to consider its own outlandish singlemindedness. And while its episodic narrative veers off into realms of absurdity akin to standalone send-ups, it proves – especially after a repeated listen – a fun, texturally dense celebration of the possible, a showcase of real daring that has been the payoff of countless prog odysseys of yore, the perfectly bonkers lineage of which it so clearly stems. From album mid-point and highlight ‘The Lord of Lightning’ – the longest effort here at five minutes – to its closing title track (featuring a text-to-speech reader known as 'UK, Charles') you might well find yourself shaking your head with disbelief one minute and punching the air in awe the next.

There are 21 tracks packed into 45 minutes, but if you wilfully suspend your disbelief, just as the leaky boat turns the corner into side one, then all should sync as it should. Having delivered the goods and then some over the last few years, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard have earned right to throw considerable amounts of caution to many winds. And while their remarkable spell of restlessness right now certainly spells conviction (Murder of the Universe is, lest we forget, album two of a planned five this year) it also accommodates genuine quality - something that often falls by the wayside for those with less gall, ability and vision.