2 out of 5
Produced by: Stu Mackenzie
Hey y’all, Unpopular Opinion here, to talk about: live albums. Now, look, I haven’t been shy, whatsoever, about my general take on live albums – that I generally don’t consider them a necessity, unless they bring some new dimension to the material – but maybe, more specifically, I want to talk about live bands: groups who have a reputation for being quite something to see live, and so a recording might be rated on how effectively it captures that spirit. And, y’know, sure. But I still think this falls into the first grouping, ultimately, as the appreciation of live albums seems to somewhat stem from a desire to see the group / artist live, or from triggering good memories of having seen them live, and if you’re averse to shows – here I raise my hand – then the necessity of something like, say, King Gizzard’s Chunky Shrapnel, collecting live cuts from across several releases, is still questionable, despite the reviews telling me that this is a great representation of their live energy.
Now, I do think the way this was put together was pretty cool: the Infest the Rats’ Nest tour had an accompanying film made to provide fans an immersive experience of the road show – the film being called Chunky Shrapnel – and thus this is the soundtrack to that, inclusive of full performances of the songs. But there’s some additional work done, creating interstitial instrumental tracks which are new (perhaps giving a reason for us non-live album listeners to give it a go), and, I dunno if this is how it appears in the flick, but the last track is stitched together from three live sets such that you cannot tell, and that’s a pretty cool accomplishment. So this doesn’t just feel like a money grab; rather, it does come across as an album that had some consideration put into it.
But otherwise, and taking into account my general live disc criticism, I’m not hearing anything that convinces me why I should be listening to these versions over the studio ones. The interstitials are from some film scores frontman Stu McKenzie was working on, so they’re ambient, electronic affairs, and don’t really feel like they “belong” with the psych / metal tracks here. The way they’re interspersed is also strange, as we get several sections of more folky jam tracks, more hardcore stuff, and then concluding with some psych, and the interstitials… aren’t used to break up those sections. So they feel pretty random. Furthermore, the quality of the recordings all have that somewhat washed out vibe common to such things, with some (tracks recorded in Luxembourg, Madrid) definitely with lesser range and at a lower volume than others. It all sounds good, but it’s the negative consequence of plucking from disparate live shows.
If my general opinion of live albums is a shoulder-shrug, the additional knocks mentioned are why this dips slightly below that. But for you KG live show lovers – and you can hear the massive cheering crowd, or just read any review where people are enthusing about how they rip live – Chunky Shrapnel is surely a good deal, and this review very much doesn’t apply.