ALBUM REVIEW: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Butterfly 3000
Editor's Note: The luster and novelty of this record has faded, with the original grade being a B.
With this being my first full length listen of a King Gizzard project, I briefly went back and took a listen to some selections from their extremely prolific catalog, including five albums in 2017 alone. From what I can gather, they are deeply inspired by ‘60s and ‘70s rock of all shades, going from blown out Sabbath style stoner metal on Infest The Rat’s Nest to desert rock on Flying Microtonal Banana. Whatever sound they dabble in, they typically do it pretty well and tend to have a lot of great solos and musical moments throughout. Regardless of that, I’m not totally thrilled by their whole catalog, so much so that I’ve chosen to ignore their latest double album KG/LW, for which I find the music to be kind of samey and average for the band.
Butterfly 3000 is a completely different story, I was pleasantly surprised to hear them stray away from their typical distorted tendencies toward a more New Age and hippie sound. Like fellow Aussie rock greats Tame Impala, KG has chosen to lean on the psych rock tendencies of bands like Jefferson Airplane and DUNGEN. You get those loopy and never ending drums as on “Blue Morpho”, loaded with plenty of trippy fills. They get more synthy on this album than I’ve ever heard them before as well, reminding me a lot of Kraftwerk with just how computerized and reflective some of the production sounds, almost kind of ravey at certain points. There is this New Age tone and pattern that repeats itself on several songs through the record which I absolutely love, extending from the God preaching opener “Yours” all the way down to the closer “Butterfly 3000”. By incorporating more electronics, the band has given itself a light sheen, one that makes the ‘60s VW Beetle rock they spin so much more bright and powerful.
“Shanghai” is such a delight, I love the way the band brings in bongos and a sort of tacky Chinese-style synth lead into the mix, which playfully follows along with the lead singer’s choral melodies. Stu Mackenzie freewheels as he reaches into his upper register on the first verse, the effort this band puts into every element of the sound proves their chemistry is strong. It’s rare to listen to this album from top to bottom without getting an earworm synth or a blazing guitar solo or a drum fill stuck in your head. “Interior People” is a strange combo of acoustic guitars, vintage synth leads and Norman Greenbaum lead vocals that sounds like a bunch of hippies running through a field and spinning about. Lyrically, the song dives into themes of self-sabotage and hearing voices in your head, it feels like a bad acid trip where you feel like little people are inside your head and body, controlling your every function. It’s very culty and kind of beautiful at the same time.
The definitive song of this record has to be “Catching Smoke”, I am enamored from the beginning and it never lets up. Each member of the massive band is working overtime to make sure it’s perfect. The delayed synth leads follow along with Stu’s catchy as fuck chorus, “Everybody here is catching smoke/Looking for the ephemeral”, while the drums both support and demolish everything around them. Thrilling, thick synth bass comes in at just the right moments, and just as the song sounds like it’s slowing down, guitars pop into to dominate and attention grab, then they stop and a clever little drum fill knocks it to a spacey keyboard solo. Fucking BRILLIANT. BRILLIANT, MY GOD. Nothing after this comes close to that high, but tracks like the semi-acoustic “Black Hot Soup” and the hypnotic “Ya Love” make sure to provide some fun before the album concludes. Butterfly 3000 sees the band going into a brand new, exciting and clear direction that can be more fully explored on future records. Some songs on here are repetitive and the sound uniformity of the production is a gift and a curse. Even with that in mind, I am throughly impressed by what this band has been able to accomplish up to this point, and will now continue to wait with baited breath for each new release.