Year: 2017 – Producer: Stu Mackenzie – Label: Flightless – Genre: Psychedelic Rock
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are an Australian psychedelic/garage rock band that have already released eight albums since 2012. Their ninth, ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’, is the first of a five-part series of releases planned for this year which will see the band musically challenge themselves in different ways on each album. And I don’t mean musically challenge themselves in a cliché sort of way I literally mean they’ve planned self-imposed musical restrictions on themselves for the purpose of experimentation. And with ‘FMB’, the whole gimmick is that all the instruments on the record have been tuned to highlight the microtones that exist between the normal notes that we’re used to hearing in music.
Right off the bat when I heard about this experiment I was totally into it just because I like this kind of gimmick-y experimentation, especially if it produces some new and weird music. The result is exactly that: new and weird. It’s weird probably because we’re simply not used to hearing these tones, I imagine they’re quite alien to our ears because we’re so used to hearing the ‘normal’ ones. Over the time it takes to listen to the album you are able to identify some kind of notational scale that these microtones exist in and it kinda sounds like the notes that a snake charmer’s flute would play – hence the album cover, I guess.
Putting this music theory into practice, though, I didn’t like it. I found these microtones to be tonally displeasing and uncomfortable – maybe that’s why they’re never really used in mainstream music. I could live with this being the only problem the album has but it’s not. I was actually pretty let down with the songwriting and compositions on this record, especially because I was quite a big fan of their last release ‘Nonagon Infinity’. I thought they’d carry the same energy and screeching guitars into this one but I found ‘FMB’ to be comparatively quite sedated.
‘Rattlesnake’ is probably the best track on the album but that’s just because it’s the best of a bad bunch. Admittedly the bass riff is good but, given there’s little compositional variation, it’s not good enough to last for 7 minutes. It’s such a flat song as well, there’s no big pumping chorus to look forward to and the vocals are so pedestrian – which was one of my minor critiques of the last record as well. Also, some of the guitar riffs here sound like they were written by some teens messing around in a garage.
This sense of frustration carried on throughout the album for me. The next two tracks, ‘Melting’ and ‘Open Water’, both have their strengths but I kept waiting for *something* that never came in the end. I’m getting this feeling because their brand of music seems like it needs a big bombastic chorus or solo to take it to the next level – and they showed they can do this and do it well on ‘Nonagon Infinity’. The result, then, is that the songs end up being quite flat and boring.
To put it into context, ‘Melting’ and ‘Open Water’ are the more favourable tracks which actually have some redeemable qualities – like some nice drums and a solid verse respectively. But there are some other totally forgettable numbers like ‘Sleep Drifter’, which is just kinda whiny and really drags, and ‘Doom City’.
I think this album just lacks any kind of impetus or energy, it really didn’t entertain me all that much. Which was strange because I enjoyed ‘Nonagon Infinity’ so much that I was really looking forward to checking this one out. I feel like the odd one out though because many other publications and friends do rate it quite highly. Disappointed.
Top Tracks: N/A
My Rating: 4.8/10