The objective of psychedelic music is to open an inexperienced mind to new worlds of possibilities. To jab a body’s third eye and unlock the brain’s potential. Psychedelic rock should convey the awesomeness of space – both inner and outer – to the listener, ushering the unknown in to a closed-off, solitary universe.
On ‘Gumboot Soup,’ King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard have managed on record what Neil Gaiman accomplishes with his books: to place the unknown/impossible on the tip of the imagination. Just out of reach of concrete definitions and dimensions. By combining the near-forgotten tropes of prog rock and psychedelia, the music on ‘Gumboot Soup’ plays out like a nostalgia trip that has never been heard before: Each element is recognisable, but never put in a context like this.
Juxtaposing eastern musical influences with psych-garage aggression and moulding those sonic tools with virtuosic hands is the best of two ages: the psychedelic sixties’ counterculture and its punk-inspired eighties counterpart. On a track like Muddy Water, played at punk rock pace in 3/4 time, the droning vocals peacefully offset the John Bonham-worthy drumbeat and frantic guitar work. The intricate gaps in the beat are gasps for air between the rushes of titular muddy water that threaten to overwhelm the listener. Brief breaks in the flood to the third-eye.
On tracks such as the opening Beginner’s Luck, King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard prove themselves to be ardent students of the Sgt Pepper’s… school of psychedelia. Meticulously crafted, almost easy-listening songs, that despite their softness on the ear, transcend triteness to become works of startling creativity. When the bass mirrors the vocal melody in Beginner’s Luck’s chorus, the mind marvels at that move’s effectiveness. A simple manoeuvre, but impactful as a nerve pinch.
‘Gumboot Soup’ also takes heed of the Velvet Underground’s wisdom and utilises elements of noise structuralism; to paraphrase John Lydon/Rotten. On tracks such as Superposition modern studio trickery gives the vocals a sheen that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Daft Punk album. But when the Velvets-esque musique concréte components cut across the mellowed-out accompaniment, the track descends into the most bizarre of freak outs. Not bizarre like the freak out on The Count Five’s Psychotic Reaction, but bizarre in a strange, slick manner. As if a boardroom dropped ketamine at a meeting.
King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard are proof of the 21st century’s musical worth. Unlike the slew of Led Zeppelin ripoffs and AC/DC soundalikes, they have taken the spirit of the late sixties and early seventies and imbued it in thoroughly modern music. The Great Chain Of Being juggernauts through the senses on the back of a vintage Sabbath-esque groove, but a track earlier on Down The Sink, the groove was decidedly indie. A neurotic, clean-toned groove that totters on the edge of danceability.
‘Gumboot Soup’ is the best of both worlds: mind-bending but accessible. The Lizard Wizard recorded five albums in 2017, further proof that the 21st century has creativity to offer. It’s an oft-maligned century we live in, and rightly so in many respects. But the progression of music outside of the straight hard rock genre defies all naysayers who claim that music died with Kurt Cobain. The alternative genres of yesterday have become the top 40 hits of today, and bands such as King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard are at the head of the pack. Leading us ever onwards, deeper down the third-eye’s optic nerve.