by Xristopher Bland
If progressive rock can be likened to a planet long thought to have spun beyond the outer orbits of the musical solar system, nobody told King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Like some fresh satellite transmission from that world, King Gizzard not only proves that prog is alive and vibrant but orbiting back around in the form of their new album, “Paper Mâché Dream Balloon.”
Scheduled for general release on Nov. 13th through the band’s own label, Flightless, the acoustic album unplugs from the band’s more traditional, heavier electric instrumentation. As well, where previous albums by King Gizzard have involved music intertwining around conceptual themes (yup, the concept album—a term the band isn’t afraid to use), “Paper Mâché Dream Balloon” features tracks crafted as stand-alone songs. Yet such slicing shouldn’t be misconstrued as a move by the band toward mainstream song composition and album production. Where progressive rock found its original foothold as a richly embroidered alternative to popular music of the day, King Gizzard has re-opened and held that door open since the band’s formation in 2010 in Melbourne, Australia, and they’ve done it prolifically.
Just as bands once released more than one album per year for fans, King Gizzard has astonishingly released two EPs and six albums on Flightless in five years, and not as digital downloads alone. As evidence of the growing market in vinyl and retro technology amongst baby boomers and young music fans discovering prog for the first time, King Gizzard currently offers “Paper Mâché Dream Balloon” pre-orders on vinyl, CD and digital. The band has also just offered a cassette package—a definite wanna-have for retro-media collectors in that the yellow packaging lends the album artwork a distinct Sgt. Pepper-ishness.
Musically, the band fuses much and echoes many of prog’s greatest pioneers, yet stands contemporarily. As a young seven-piece band that includes two drummers, King Gizzard embodies an eclectic, jazz-influenced intricacy. At times, the sound of Carlos Santana comes through. Other times, the music sounds like Klaatu (the incredible Canadian prog band that was once thought to be the Beatles). Then Yes seems to drift in and out. In their experimental approach to music, King Gizzard plays freely and ignores the three-minute formula of typical pop songs. Because of this, the music often finds itself under the categories of alternative or psychedelic, with the latter having more to do with associated artwork and graphics than any real psychedelic edging. While the band doesn’t definitively claim prog as its label, King Gizzard moves music in the same manner that gave progressive rock its name. In embracing the notion of concept art, they’ve joined other young bands helping to re-open the door to the world where Peter Gabriel found the Lamb lying on Broadway. If they’re a keyhole, they’re a glimpse into the place where Pink Floyd explored “The Dark Side of the Moon” and the Who found “Tommy” and drove the “Magic Bus,” and if such grand potentials are easily dismissed by those who’ve bought into prog as caricature or leftover oddments from the living museum of classic-rock artifacts, the title of King Gizzard’s new album may be more than the sum of its parts. Intended or not, the words are a reminder that all lastingness—from songs to albums to the trust and courage to hang onto any dream—began in fragility, like a paper mâché balloon.
To pre-order “Paper Mâché Dream Balloon” or anything from the band’s slammin’ swag bag,
visit the King Gizzard website:
To preview and purchase back-releases, visit Bandcamp:
Extended Play: Watch King Gizzard perform 21 minutes of incredible live music from their
album “Quarters!” in the studios of KEXP 90.3 FM in Seattle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4W19twyYD2Q