King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard: Omnium Gatherum [Album Review]

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King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Omnium Gatherum
KGLW [2022]

Over the last decade, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have followed their muse wherever it happens to take them. From their early garage punk records and psychedelic trips to their latter-day excursions in prog rock, thrash metal, microtonal experiments, and electronica, the band is never afraid to try something new and incorporate it into the larger Gizzverse. Just when you thought they might be starting to consolidate their sound with the back to back releases of KG and LW in late 2020 and early 2021, they threw another curveball with last year’s Butterfly 3000, offering up catchy electro-psych-pop built around keyboard loops and interlocking melodies. It was one of their most accessible experiments to date, which makes it surprising—or no surprise at all—that they’ve followed it up with a massive double album that feels like a funhouse trip through all of their stylistic detours so far (plus a few new ones for good measure).

Over the course of its 16 tracks, Omnium Gatherum (which is Latin for “a collection of miscellaneous people or things”) constantly surprises, at least on the first few listens. The experience is like wandering through an unfamiliar house, peeking in each room to see what’s behind the door and finding something new and different almost every time. Opener “The Dripping Tap” gets things off on the right foot, lulling the listener into a false sense of security with its folky introduction before launching into a frenetic psychedelic jam that is epic in the literal sense, clocking in at over 18 minutes. It’s followed up by “Magenta Mountain,” a track that shares some DNA with Butterfly 3000’s electronic psych-pop but also feels more fully realized, and “Kepler 22b,” which is built around a jazzy piano sample that creates a playful counterpoint to the layered vocals. Things only get more diverse from there, with excursions into Infest the Rat’s Nest-style thrash metal (“Gaia,” “Predator X,”), jazzy psych-funk (“Ambergris,” “Persistence”), exotica-tinged psychedelic pop (“Candles”), and even Beastie Boys inspired hip hop (“Sadie Sorceress,” “The Grim Reaper”). The best tracks, though, are those that fuse different elements into an eclectic—but cohesive—whole, incorporating psych and prog guitars with funky rhythms and keyboard textures (“Evilest Man,” “Red Smoke”).

Lyrically-speaking, the album is just as diverse, with themes ranging from silly to serious. One frequent motif is the band’s concern for the environment, which shows up in a few different variations across several tracks. “Gaia,” for example, references the “Gaia hypothesis” that earth and its life forms function like one giant super-organism, while “The Dripping Tap” has several interlocking lyrical mantras about impending ecological disaster and feelings of helplessness against those in power. The negative effects of misinformation also get some lyrical attention, with “Evilest Man” criticizing unethical media moguls—specifically Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch—and the damage they cause to society. It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Some tracks tackle more introspective topics, like the power dreams can hold over us (“Magenta Mountain”), while others experiment with studies of interesting characters (“Sadie Sorceress”), carrying a metaphor as far as it will go (“Persistence”), or telling weird stories that may or may not be chemically-influenced (“The Garden Goblin”).

With so many genres, styles, and themes represented, it’s difficult to sum up an album like Omnium Gatherum, let alone rank it in a discography like King Gizzard’s, which is already full of other album-length stylistic detours. As a double album, it’s almost guaranteed to have a few tracks that don’t quite stick the landing. While that’s certainly the case here, even the tracks that don’t entirely fit, like the hip hop tracks (which I actually did enjoy), are worthwhile despite feeling somewhat out of place (except for maybe “The Garden Goblin”—sorry Cook!). But even though it can feel a little disjointed as a listening experience, there are some tracks here, like “The Dripping Tap” or “Evilest Man,” that rank up there with the best of the band’s output. Those high points make navigating Omnium Gatherum’s labyrinthian structure more than worth the effort.

“The Dripping Tap” / “Evilest Man” / “Magenta Mountain” / “Red Smoke”

Frankie And The Witch Fingers / Osees / The Beatles

Butterfly 3000 (2021) / L.W. (2021) / K.G. (2020) / Chunky Shrapnel (2020) / Infest The Rats’ Nest (2019) / Fishing For Fishies (2019) / Gumboot Soup (2017) / Polygondwanaland (2017) / Sketches Of Brunswick East (2017) / Murder Of The Universe (2017) / Flying Microtonal Banana (2017) / Nonagon Infinity (2016) / Paper Mâché Dream Balloon (2015) / Quarters (2015) / I’m In Your Mind Fuzz (2014)

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