I struggle mightily to describe my love, love, love for KG&LW — as this blog post a couple months ago attests.
Is it the psychedelic, frenetic, free-form madness these 7 nutty Australians create at a pace somehow faster than their prolific American counterparts, Thee Oh Sees? Quantity rarely correlates with quality, but for KG&LW, 2017 was a watershed year, with the band releasing four (Yes! Four!) full length albums in twelve short months. And, this may be seen as a disappointment to the band themselves, as they had set out to release five albums this year. Don’t be so hard on yourselves guys! You had to fit in eating and sleeping somewhere!
I will admit that I haven’t given their extensive output equal attention — I did need to listen to other music too — but one of the four albums did stand out for me: their second–Murder of the Universe. As proof that my tastes rarely match critics, Allmusic and Metacritic rate this one the weakest of the four.
Perhaps I’m a sucker for a concept album. The first 2/3 of this is some sort of continuous story about cyborgs taking over the world or something like that; really, I haven’t paid attention to the lyrics much. It’s all very pretentious, with the song titles going like this: Altered Beast I, Alter Me I, Altered Beast II, Alter Me II, Altered Beast III, and so on. Do I have any idea which Alter Me is which? No. No one does, probably not even the band.
But the inspiration and creative energy coming from this album is palpable and when I really listen to it (often pre-lubricated), I become coated in that energy and it hugs me like the softest, warmest blanket. The album transports me to a bizarre, mostly frightening planet, yet I feel like it’s a planet of my people; I feel at home there and am able to breathe in deeply. Finally.
I chose “The Balrog” because it encapsulates all that is KG&LW for me. Crazy time signatures, drumming that is off the charts frenetic (the band has two drummers) with high-speed fills on seemingly every measure, lots of screeching guitars, wall-of-sound keys, and of course, several spoken word interludes which, I guess, are supposed to explain the story of Balrog. Here’s the ending stanza. It seems more like the middle section of yet another concept, on an album overstuffed with concepts.
For them, the future was as laid out as the burnt path he swathe
And so the damned remaining lot knelt before the red behemathe
And as they prepared for afterlife there appeared the endemic monstrosity
The Lighting Lord is back and charged the Balrog with animosity
Furious he pummeled his breast, and a blaze alit the heavens
The stage was set for war, and to the Balrog, the Lord’s finger beckoned
And this is why I struggle to write about these guys. They don’t deconstruct. I have a hard time breaking apart their pieces, because with KG&LW it’s all about the whole. No one musician stands out from the rest, no one song stands out. When I put on a KG&LW album, I’m committed to sticking it out for the whole thing. There’s no beginning and no end, man.
But this is a top 10 “songs” list, so I’ve chosen Balrog, because it’s like a mini album. It’s like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard concentrate. Which is a scary thing indeed.