Music

Enter The Gizzverse: The History Of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard In 15 Essential Tracks

It's not easy to carve a path through King Gizzard's immense back catalogue.

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard photo

Aside from perhaps The Ocean Party, there has not been a band that has exemplified being a seasoned hub of creativity and productivity the way that King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have in the 2010s.

Whether it’s sprawling concept records, flute solos, spaghetti westerns or just songs about hot stuff — wax, water, take your pick — the Torquay natives have never pulled the same stunt twice.

At the time of writing, they are gearing up to release their 15th album Infest the Rat’s Nest — this one paying homage to the band’s love of thrash metal like Slayer and Testament, all with the quintessential King Gizz twist.

With that in mind, we’re set with the unenviable task of attempting to explain the band’s trajectory and evolution by picking just one song from each of these albums.

Truthfully, you could take any combination of 15 songs from the band and tell a completely different story with each. In its own way, that’s one of King Gizzard’s many defining traits — and, in turn, what’s kept so many fans coming back to the well time and time again.


#1. ‘Garage Liddiard’ (2012)

We return to this 12 Bar Bruise cut for a couple of reasons. One is to look at Gizz in its relevant infancy, long before psych-tinged eccentricities became the centre of their universe. Another is to hear just how much fun they’re having, plowing into choppy guitar chords and howling into reverb-heavy mics just for the sake of it.

Lastly, the title of the song is a self-fulfilling prophecy — the real Gareth Liddiard has now toured with King Gizz multiple times and is signed to their label, Flightless Records, as part of Tropical Fuck Storm. It all started here.


#2. ‘Eyes Like the Sky’ (2013)

How do you avoid Second Album Syndrome? Well, one way around it is to soundtrack a spaghetti western story written by the dad of your harmonica player. Y’know, that old chestnut.

Eyes Like the Sky is one of the more unique efforts in a discography that one could argue is defined by unique efforts — and it all begins with the triumphant guitar line that kicks off the whole affair in earnest. Performed in the spirit of Ennio Morricone’s work with Sergio Leone, you’ll feel like you’re right in the midst of the old west as Gizz trumpet your arrival.


#3. ‘Head On/Pill’ (2013)

The unmistakable opener to Float Along – Fill Your Lungs, this is the longest song in the King Gizzard cannon — and considering you’re dealing with well over 100 songs, that’s quite the feat.

It justifies all 16 minutes of its runtime, building momentum from a sprawling slow-mo psychedelia crawl into an unstoppable force at breakneck pace. Its rolling drums have steam coming off them; its guitars are jangling so much it’s become a volatile seizure.

It’s an odyssey unlike anything else in the band’s discography — let alone on Float Along, which is subsequently eclipsed by this absolute game-changer.


#4. ‘Hot Wax’ (2014)

There’s always movement happening at a King Gizzard show. More often than not it’s the throes of a testoterone-fuelled moshpit, but occasionally it would shift gears into a full-on dance party when the band lock into one of their particular grooves.

One of the Gizz tracks that is always guaranteed to send hips a-swivellin’ is this underrated gem from Oddments. Complete with a cheeky Beach Boys reference and some certifiably shit-hot harmonica work from Ambrose Kenny Smith, not to mention some cartoony falsetto to go along with it, there’s ample opportunity to get those hips swivelling on Oddments‘ centrepiece track.


#5. ‘Hot Water’ (2014)

Here, the band let loose one of their most melodic and instantly-recognisable licks… but it’s not on guitar. Instead, it’s puffed away at on the flute — an instrument Stu Mackenzie picked up in his endearing, ongoing quest to learn one new instrument a year.

Needless to say, the Jethro Tull comparisons flew in thick (as a brick) and fast, although they’re not entirely without merit. The mix of the band’s take on rock music matched with such a unique musical element makes this one of their most creative efforts of this era. Besides, Jethro Tull kick arse. No joke!


#6. ‘The River’ (2015)

Coming at the album formula from yet another angle, Quarters! sees the septet seamlessly segue into strange new surrounds. The album is 40 minutes and 40 seconds long, composed of four songs that are — you guessed it — 10 minutes and 10 seconds apiece.

The standout is this jazzy odyssey, which utilises the tricky 5/4 time signature and at times feels like they’re less King Gizzard and more the Star Wars Cantina band. That’s absolutely a compliment, by the way.

This track, paired with Nonagon‘s ‘Wah Wah,’ makes for one of the more entertaining moments of a Gizz live show as it goes from whisper-quiet right back to shout-out-loud.


7#. ‘Paper Mâché Dream Balloon’ (2015)

For a band that has thrived off electricity since their inception, a record like Paper Mâché was always going to be bold. Save for the electric bass, every instrument on the album is acoustic — meaning it’s a much brighter-sounding record than the usual Gizz fanfare, although it’s equally as vast and ambitious in nature.

When the band break into yet another delightful flute melody in the title track’s chorus, it feels like pure sunshine — a sensation that is admittedly rare within the Gizzverse, but one that’s always welcome.


#8. ‘People-Vultures’ (2016)

Admittedly, it’s difficult to pick a highlight from Nonagon Infinity — an endlessly looping, seamless album; you could arguably present the entire piece as the standout. Still, there’s something pretty darn righteous about when the song slows to a quarter rhythm and the septet go full Sabbath and prepare to unleash hell in the name of science fiction and the sweet leaf.

It’s one of the more creative passageways of the Nonagon loop, switching up the pace and throwing in a few curveballs for good measure. Bonus points for the double-drum assault that even Bill Ward himself would approve of.


#9. ‘Rattlesnake’ (2016)

The biggest journey of King Gizzard’s career began with a single step — or, in this case, a single rattle. ‘Rattlensnake’ was the first single to be taken from Flying Microtonal Banana, the first of five albums that the band released in 2017.

It ended up being a first taste that lingered in the mouths of every last one of the band’s frothers — the song has long remained a consistent staple of what is otherwise a constantly-changing setlist, and it garners just as feverish a response now as it did when it first hit the airwaves. A real snakecharmer.


#10. ‘The Lord of Lightning’ (2017)

When King Gizzard made their ‘network television debut,’ as late-night hosts love to put it, two things happened. Firstly, we got to hear honorary Aussie Conan O’Brien say the words ‘KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD,’ which is a joy in and unto itself. Secondly, however, we saw the band promptly tear into this cut from the monstrous Murder of the Universe.

The whole album sparked memes proclaiming ‘Gizzverse Confirmed,’ given its musical ties to I’m in Your Mind Fuzz and Nonagon Infinity. More than anything, however, it showed how intense the band could get when they put their hive-mind to work.


#11. ‘A Journey to (S)hell’ (2017)

In a Gizz first, album number three for 2017 saw them directly collaborate with another musician in a joint album release — in this case, LA-based one-man-band Mild High Club. While in town for the band’s annual Gizzfest, Mild High and Gizz decided to jam out some loose, vague ideas in Sketches of Brunswick East. 

The end result is an admittedly patchy and inconsistent effort (it wasn’t called Sketches for nothing), although there are several key bright spots to speak of. This instrumental is one of the standout moments, incorporating busy arrangements and tape-warping to create something captivating within this freshly-minted line of musical communication.


#12. ‘Polygondwanaland’ (2017)

Welcome to a new part of the Gizzverse, somewhere off the Nonagon and beneath the dream balloon. Polygondwanaland is a mix of joy-fantastic pop-jazz and Sabbath-observing hard-rock, jumping between the two worlds like hopscotch.

The title track lands them in the former realm — and you’d best believe there’s more flutes where that came from. Although ‘Crumbling Castle’ has remained more of a staple in the live setting, ‘Polygondwanaland’ is an exercise in both Gizz’s restraint and elements of streamlined creativity. The use of Eastern microtonal melodies once again factors in, resulting in a chorus that sticks like duct tape.


#13. ‘The Great Chain of Being’ (2017)

With literally hours to spare, King Gizzard served up album number five for 2017 on New Year’s Eve. It was the perfect send-off — a classically scattershot LP, not anchored by a running theme or storyline but still happy to exist in its own little world.

Here, the band tune down to the herculean drop-B — normally reserved for metal bands — and turn in an absolute mane-thrasher of a track. With its mantra-like refrain and walloping drums, ‘Great Chain’ is a guttural, stomping behemoth — certainly not something one would expect from an album as innocuously-titled as Gumboot Soup.


#14. ‘Cyboogie’ (2019)

Fishing for Fishies begins with a rollicking, deceptively-cutesy title track that could pass as a song from a children’s show. They also tap into Steely Dan, ZZ Top and Pink Floyd on their travels. No-one, however, could have predicted how such a wildly-diverse record would end.

‘Cyboogie’ is the most electronically-oriented song that the band have committed to record to date, layered with synths and keyboards and topped off with Mackenzie robotifying his voice thanks to a vintage vocoder in the spirit of Daft Punk or Kraftwerk.

Just when you think you have the answers, King Gizzard change the questions.


#15. ‘Organ Farmer’ (2019)

In just over a week, King Gizzard will drop their 15th studio album. It’s an unprecedented run of productivity, and they’re celebrating it in the most Gizz way possible: releasing a thrash-metal album – because why not? They’ve won an ARIA for Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal album after all, it’s high time they live up to said title.

‘Organ Farmer’ is one of three songs already released, and if it’s anything to go by then the band’s new venture is going to be incredibly fruitful. They sound right at home in the midst of double-kick, churning guitars and belligerent vocals — long may they reign in blood.


David James Young is a writer, podcaster, rattlesnake, muckraker and confused cyborg. You can find out more about him by visiting www.davidjamesyoung.com.