4 out of 5
Produced by: Stu Mackenzie
Ever changing, ever experimenting, and yet made identifiable via the group’s core swirl of classic American jangle and an indie-fied, punked up, Let’s See What Happens approach, King Gizzard’s 90-billion-releases-and-growing output never fails to impress. The frequency of the stuff they produce is suggestive of diminishing returns, or that we might be getting half-baked material, but that is the impressive part: even when improvising, there’s a polish to their music that speaks to good band leadership and production, and definitely good group communication. Because while not everything pays off, and the varying style pokes and concepts will inevitably create ups and downs for different listeners, the effect is not predictable, and thus is always worth checking out.
Calling an album Changes, when changing is your m.o., is kinda funny, but this is, in that sense, business as usual: KGLW adapt a certain pose – a kind of soulful bop atop their jam band swagger – and sally forth, dropping the set amidst a glut of other sets / EPs… another “classic” move. And X years into this project, the impressiveness holds, and, for me, provides an incredibly strong ‘up’ of an album, less hard-edged than I’d tell you I prefer, while maintaining rawness in its production style, and the way the album flows between mini-epics that build on poppy themes towards selective, joyful explosions of harmonies and guitars, and shorter, more groove-laden bursts. All of this is synced by a recurring melody – though iterated on sufficiently, so it doesn’t tire – and a low-end keyboard crunch and funky bass; your head will be bobbing from track one and never stop.
This flow does produce a couple speedbumps, either indirectly – Hate Dancin’ doesn’t really transition at all from opener Change, so it doesn’t stand out – or directly, when trying to stuff some bridges into longer songs breaks the trance of that ongoing melody. But of course, the more you spin this (and it’s a front-to-back ear worm, so you will), those issues fade.
Stu’s recording highlights the soulfulness, keeping the percussion / beats sharp and layered, and allowing for a warm glow to the vocals and guitars. Good ol’ nostalgia feelings reign supreme, and then KG will let rip with some modern affects that elicit smiles – this is not a band that rests on shtick.
And lyrically, this is also solid stuff. Stu tends to float between poignant moments, more generic soul-searching, and fluff; singling out Hate Dancin’ again, it is rather fluffy (and probably the least affecting track overall), but there’s otherwise a strong theme of self-evaluation here that keeps the writing a bitnin edge. The focus seems to have helped Stu push for some heavier thoughts and concepts that are worth perusing.
I’m still impressed, and left waiting eagerly for the next KGLW offering.