When King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard announced their plan to release five albums in 2017, a lot of people were worried that it would lead to a quantity over quality situation. It’s not like the band weren’t already prolific when it came to releasing albums at a fast pace (last year’s Nonagon Infinity was their eighth album despite the band only forming in 2010).
Now that we’re four albums deep into the band’s five-albums-in-a-year experiment, I can say – personally at least – that the band’s 2017 output has been pretty mixed. While I loved Flying Microtonal Banana – easily one of my favourite King Gizzard albums – Murder Of The Universe and Sketches Of East Brunswick (which I didn’t around to reviewing) both felt lacking. While both of them had some interesting stuff going on in them, they felt pretty disposable as a whole. Since they were released a few months ago, I’ve felt no real desire to go back and revisit them.
So what about Polygondwanaland? While the album is definitely a step up from Murder Of The Universe and Sketches Of East Brunswick, I still wouldn’t say it ranks among the band’s best work (except maybe lead single ‘Crumbling Castle’). More than ever before, it feels like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are beginning to run out of steam a bit. While the band explore a few new ideas on the album – taking a lot of inspiration from prog rock and polyrhythms – it comes across as King Gizzard by the numbers. It doesn’t feel like they do much here that they haven’t done better on past releases.
Let’s start with the album’s main highlight: ‘Crumbling Castle’. This monstrous 11-minute track ranks among the band’s best songs, flowing along steadily before building to a huge climax. It’s impressive that the band are able to keep things interesting for so long, changing things up along the way just enough to hold the audience’s attention. King Gizzard sound like a well-oiled psych rock machine on this song, all the instruments meshing together incredibly well. It feels effortless and dense at the same time in a way that the band’s best songs do.
The album’s other nine tracks feel distinct from the opener, blending into each other in a characteristically King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard way. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing. Good, because it helps the album feel like one long journey – the songs’ lyrics even tie together narratively – and bad, because it makes it difficult for any one song to stand out by itself. Almost every track on here has its own quirks and unique flourishes – like jittery vocal delivery on ‘Inner Cell’ or the spacey ambient section on ‘The Fourth Colour’ – but few of them feel memorable. Despite the featuring the same sort of seamless transitions between songs, every track on Nonagon Infinity feels wholly unique and can stand by itself – but I can only say the same for a handful of tracks on Polygondwanaland.
It’s a solid album, don’t get me wrong, and given that it’s the band’s fourth in a year, it’s way better than it has any right to be. But I can’t help but feel like King Gizzard have been stretching themselves too thin lately – reliably delivering good but forgettable albums rather than great ones. Let’s just hope that once this year is over, they’ll slow things down a bit.
Best Tracks: ‘Crumbling Castle’, ‘Deserted Dunes Welcome Weary Feet’, ‘Inner Cell’.