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Album Review: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Fishing for Fishies

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After 2017's prolific run of five high-concept psych-rock albums, the Perth seven-piece King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard returns with bluesy glam and environmentalism. Fishing for Fishies reimagines the genre only in as far as it can, which is ultimately not a great distance.

Album Art 'Fishing for Fishies' (2019)

Fishing for Fishies is not epic. While varying in quality, all of 2017’s LPs were at least strikingly ambitious. Whether exploring the notes in between the western scale on Flying Microtonal Banana, delving into “post-audiobook” on Murder of the Universe or creating a fully looping album on Polygondwonaland, King Gizzard is always innovating. This is sadly absent on Fishing for Fishies, which never seems to fully escape the tradition it draws from.

A shuffling beat introduces the title track after a false start. It’s one of the longest on the album, and all that for what seems like a painfully shallow absurdity. Its delicate guitar passages are perfectly pleasant, backed by a bumbling walking bassline, and there’s a jazzy interjection of a Fender Rhodes at around the four-minute mark, but this is insufficient to save it from brash harmonicas and moronic lyrics such as, “I don’t want to catch none/ I’m let them swum”.

‘Boogieman Sam’ follows and probably represents the band’s best interpretation of 1970s bluesy glam rock. It has to be said though, that if you’re looking for that kind of thing you can easily find it executed with a lot more passion by bands such as The Lemon Twigs, Foxygen, White Denim or even The Black Keys. The fuzz is strong with this one, but again at four minutes 42 seconds, it’s far from snappy and it’s lyrically indistinct.

The coherent message of ‘Fishing for Fishies’ contrasts with the lyrical dearth on ‘The Bird Song’ where “a shiny flying elephant” is rhymed with the all-too-pertinent question, “is that even relevant?” ‘Plastic Boogie’ conveys the album’s environmental plea most clearly with a chorus proclaiming, “the way we wrap it is wrong”. But the ever-present cacophony of voices in the background is an irritating distraction.

On ‘The Cruel Millennial’ Ambrose Kenny-Smith’s voice is much better suited to the glam rock genre than Stu Mackenzie’s with its tenor twang. Following this ‘Real’s Not Real’ provides what is perhaps the only genuine riff, at least in the bass, on the album. It seems to be the band’s take on fake news’s ability to warp our perception of truth summed up in lyrics such as, “I’m afraid you're lacking some free will/ Your real’s not real”.

By the time we reach ‘This Thing’, the unoriginality has already grown wearisome. Lead singer and guitarist Stu Mackenzie tries to embody T. Rex’s Marc Bolan’s half-whispered intimacy but unfortunately falls far short. ‘Acarine’ is relatively low-key, but rather uncompelling until around three minutes 20 seconds where King Gizzard’s chaotic take on acid house kicks in and one is left wondering why they didn’t do more in this direction.

‘Cyboogie’, the album closer, was the first single to be released from Fishing for Fishies and sadly repeated listens fail to reveal anything more profound in this disappointingly pedestrian sci-fi slog featuring heavy use of the vocoder. The last minute of nearly seven is comprised mainly of retro synth noise and pitched-down vocals distorted beyond comprehension.

Fishing for Fishies feels directionless and bloated in many places although there are flashes of brilliance here and there. Leaning too heavily on the blues-rock that seems to serve as a point of origin for this album King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard largely fails to innovate, despite conveying an important environmental message.




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