Genre-bending psych outfit King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard engage an arsenal of synthesisers for their 25th studio album, leaving their comfort zone for a galactic robo-rave. Read our The Silver Cord review.
“We’re testing the boundaries of people’s attention spans when it comes to listening to music, perhaps – but I’m heavily interested in destroying such concepts,” teased Stu Mackenzie, frontman of the six-piece psychedelic-rock band that thrives on throwing surprises about their next direction.
But fans are in for a penny and a pound. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard sink their fingers into all the music genre pies, and it’s only heightened their cultish fandom.
With The Silver Cord – their latest hard turn – they’ve discarded the microtonal guitars and fuzz pedals in favour of modulator synthesisers and electronic percussion, with hectic, hilarious (but mixed) results during its seven-song duration. To accuse King Gizz’ of such mediocrity feels like the antithesis of their ethos, as they can’t help themselves try every musical style at the buffet.
Granted, they have an extraordinary ability to pick up random musical gizmos, but we can’t expect them to always reach their loftiest peaks, especially considering their ridiculously prolific output – this is their 25th studio album since 2012! Madness.
Jumping into their toy box of synth instruments, these arrangements (gleefully nodded to on the album’s artwork) act as the bedrock of the record, including the trusted Juno-60, which was used heavily for 2021’s Butterfly 3000, their most synth-y album before this.
However, the opening three tracks, ‘Theia’, ‘The Silver Cord’ and ‘Set’, don’t blast off as one had hoped and feel like a waste of the tactic they’ve used on earlier albums, where several tracks feel like one long odyssey.
Each has an entirely different tempo and texture – the optimistic dance-pop of ‘Theia’ brushes shoulders with Madonna’s 1998 hit ‘Ray Of Light’; the title track floats around in orbit until the pumping crescendo; ‘Set’ fully embraces a 90s euro-pop club banger aesthetic, complete with shoulder-shimmying rhythms.
But then it all unfolds like a group of mad scientists holding a drug-addled warehouse rave.
Usually seen caressing a harmonica, sideman Ambrose Kenny-Smith takes the lead for a hefty portion of ‘Set’ and ‘Gilgamesh’, spitting Beastie Boys-type bars over an acid rave backdrop, warped by vocoders and other mind-bending effects that soak the vocals.
It’s certainly intergalactic. You can hear the band’s hype man leaning into it throughout, and it’s clear they’re all having a laugh. The weirder King Gizzard become, the better they function.
Lyrically, The Silver Cord feels the most familiar. King Gizz’ consistently prioritise playfulness over profundity, and once again conjure up tales of cyborgs and mythical prophecies that’d make Isaac Asimov proud. But that’s the only comfort zone they dwell in on this album.
You can only gawp in awe at the band’s insatiable desire to explore unknown territories, and The Silver Cord is another welcome addition to the ‘Gizz-Verse’. Though it’s certainly not a gateway album into their oeuvre by any means, treat it like an insight into their freewheeling, genre-mashing nature, and you’ll quickly learn to love it. Then, give the 90-minute extended version a punt.
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