I know you’re thinking it, so I’ll just say it: King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard is an absolutely bizarre name for a band. However, what’s even more bizarre is that I’ve gone this long without ever hearing about their own tantalizing brand of garage psychedelia, even more so considering they’ve amazingly released a total of seven full-length albums in the past five years. In Paper Mâché Dream Balloon, the septet’s most recent album, things get a little simpler, and the result is absolutely mesmerizing. Swapping those trippy instrumentals with what seems to be an entire acoustic and woodwind section makes these tracks sound lighthearted and euphoric, yet still incredibly focused.
In King Gizzard’s recent work Quarters!, released a few months back, the band literally took the album and chopped it up into fourths, each being a whopping ten minutes long. Each song seemed to have it’s own certain mood, and expressed it through crunchy, fuzzy electric instrumentals, and even a few strange sound effects here and there to keep everything sounding different from other psych-rock oriented bands like Tame Impala.Through Quarters! as well as their past work, it’s clear that the seven-piece Melbourne band knows a thing or two about intense experimentation, and that came in loud and clear with Paper Mâché Dream Balloon, an exclusively acoustic album. In fact, the sheer acoustic quality of this album practically sustains itself throughout its twelve tracks, here none of which exceed four minutes. It’s easy to think that with a purely acoustic album that the individual tracks would be bland, considering fans of King Gizzard have come to expect something grandiose. While its true that the tracks don’t seem to follow any set theme, this isn’t the case at all, and instead, intense technique and articulation seem to be key.
Opener “Sense” shows these techniques first hand, with an absolutely beautiful, almost mesmerizing clarinet melody that repeats in different sections seamlessly. “Bone” and “Dirt” seem to go hand in hand, although “Dirt” is the more colorful and evocative of the two. I can’t help comparing title track “Paper Mâché Dream Balloon” to Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s specific style of crooning vocals and intricate instrumentals, but that doesn’t take away from originality in the slightest. Once you get through the tracks “Cold Cadaver” and “The Bitter Boogie,” its clear that this is folk music with somewhat of a darker, twisted twist, though you’d never know it through listening to the lighthearted melodies alone. However, with this in mind, it can’t help but sound maniacal at times, and almost as if there’s something lurking underneath all the layers. The album also tends to hollow out towards the middle, where the vocals get lost in the instrumentals and start to bleed together. Needless to say, it’s a little disappointing, considering their strong start, and tends to become a little tiresome to listen to without a dynamic riff or vocal line to latch onto. Their quirky track “Trapdoor” seems to be their most humorous track off the album, due to its offbeat repeated vocal line and enough eeriness to be mistaken for a bonus track off the Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack (just watch the music video, you’ll see what I mean). The main vocals are brilliant, however, and seems to effectively cut through the haze of background chanting and the incessant, anxious flute. It’s definitely a fun track to listen to, and seems to sum up what the album wants to become – a romp in the psychedelic hay.
Paper Mâché Dream Balloon is sort of a catch-all for just about everything – blues, pop, psych-pop, folk, and even some jazz sprinkled in there for good measure – but never sounds heavy or messy. In fact, with some of these tracks, they just about atone for their name, even though that in and of itself seems to be part of what makes them so charming.
photo courtesy of artist