The 10 Best King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard Songs
In their first decade of existence, Melbourne ensemble King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard have already produced enough music to last several lifetimes. And it seems like any obstacle that gets thrown their way — lineup changes, a global pandemic, Crohn’s disease — only strengthens their resolve to be the most prolific rock band on the planet. Let’s put it this way: In April, King Gizzard released a mammoth 16-track, 80-minute double album, and that already feels like an afterthought compared to an October that brings three new records released within three weeks of one another. At this point, King Gizzard have essentially become the musical equivalent of a Hello Fresh box showing up on your doorstep every Friday.<
But where the seasoned fan has developed an insatiable appetite for new King Gizzard music rivaled only by Homer Simpson at an all-you-can-eat buffet, for newcomers, the question of where to jump into their canon becomes ever more daunting. King Gizzard don’t have a single definitive record that towers over the rest of their discography; this is a band prone to changing course so often, no one album can possibly provide the complete picture. Likewise, there’s no string of chart-certified singles to provide an easy roadmap to their evolution, and don’t bother looking to streaming services for any clarity — for much of the past half-decade, their most popular song on Spotify was “Work This Time,” an atypically chill 2014 lo-fi oddity that got algorithmed into a semi-hit (at least until it mysteriously disappeared from the service). Furthermore, the conceptual, interconnected nature of so many King Gizzard records means the individual tracks may lose some of their impact when they’re stripped out and dropped into a randomly sequenced “Essentials” playlist.
Nonetheless, to mark the 10th anniversary of their debut album (and to give newcomers a chance to play catchup), we’re going to attempt to distill 10 years of abundant output into 10 tracks that represent the most significant pit stops on the band’s endless rocket-ride into the unknown. Surely, some diehard fans out there will think this list is complete horseshit and could easily draft up a completely different list of 10 all-time Gizzard bangers. They wouldn’t be true fans otherwise.
"Ice V" (from Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms And Lava, 2022)
The three albums King Gizzard are releasing in October 2022 each have their own distinct forms and functions, yet they all feel like responses to particular sounds of the early ’70s: Changes puts its own quirky spin on the era’s sunshined soul-pop, while Laminated Denim — comprising two 15-minute pieces — filters freewheeling jam-band rock through a whimsical prog filter. But on the forebodingly titled Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms And Lava, King Gizzard ponder the fate of Earth and meaning of life while laying down some furious psychedelic funk that encourages us to dance our way through the dystopia. Upon its release as a single last month, “Ice V” instantly earned a place among the Gizzard’s wiggiest workouts, with its relentless percussive momentum, wah-wahed guitar scratching, and free-flowing flutes culminating in a riotous call-and-response chant — “Will we survive? Ice Five?” — that confirms the best defense against an encroaching ice age is to work up a sweat.
"Vegemite" (from Oddments, 2014)
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard have always been firm believers in a go-big-or-go-home philosophy, from their mouthful of a band name and their seven-person lineups to their ceaseless tsunami of album releases (not to mention the fantastical storylines and dense, 18-minute songs that populate them). So it’s a rare treat to hear band-leader Stu Mackenzie knock out something as short and sweet as “Vegemite,” his wonderfully warped ode to the gloopy brown sandwich spread beloved by Australians (and no one else). Here, the Gizzard sound less like a Desert Daze-conquering superpower and more like precocious kids trying to charm their way into the Elephant 6 collective circa 1996.
"I'm Sleepin' In" (from Gumboot Soup, 2017)
The year 2017 cemented King Gizzard’s status as the most wildly productive band of its generation, with the group making good on its promise to release five albums in a 12-month span. After embarking on adventures into microtonal tuning (Flying Microtonal Banana), AI-themed dystopian-metal suites (Murder Of The Universe), jazzy odysseys (Sketches Of Brunswick East), and medeival prog-rock (Polygondwanaland), the band capped the year with the grab-bag pop delights of Gumboot Soup, whose hazy-headed highlight “I’m Sleepin’ In” sounds like it crawled out of John Lennon’s White Album song stash. “I’m Sleepin’ In” is essentially a down-filled duvet in musical form, a welcome and necessary comedown reprieve for band and fans alike at the end of a whirlwind year, and an evergreen anti-motivational mantra for those mornings when you can barely summon the strength to slap the Snooze bar.
"Her and I (Slow Jam 2)" (from I’m in Your Mind Fuzz, 2014)
King Gizzard’s fifth album, I’m in Your Mind Fuzz, was their first major breakthrough: On top of being their first album to crack the ARIA charts back home, it was also their first to receive a proper North American release, through Jon Dwyer’s Castle Face label. And really, there was no better home for it: In its exhilarating opening stretch, I’m in Your Mind Fuzz takes Thee Oh Sees’ breakneck psych-punk as its starting point and then ups the strobe-lit mania with all manner of blues-harmonica skronk, phaser effects, and Middle Eastern motifs. But the album’s second half eases off the accelerator, culminating in a pair of “slow jams” that embrace both interpretations of the term, showcasing both the band’s amorous side as well as their ability to flex their exploratory ethos even in more patiently paced environs. The album’s closer, “Her And I,” is a mercurial masterwork: At is core, it’s a breezy, beachside acoustic lullaby, but its winsome verses are offset by shadowy instrumental passages that suggest early-’70s Stones taking a crack at “Riders On The Storm,” making the song feel like a sun-dappled coastal drive that takes periodic detours into the darkest of forests.
"God Is In The Rhythm" (from Quarters!, 2015)
Quarters! is one of the more peculiar entries in the King Gizzard canon, a concept album whose unifying thread isn’t narrative but structural: The album comprises four tracks that each clock in at exactly 10 minutes and 10 seconds. But while Quarters! is largely an excuse for the Gizzard to unleash their latent prog-jazz chops (to the point of earning them a Best Jazz Album nomination at the 2015 ARIA Awards), the album’s crowning moment is an exercise in simplicity. Contrary to its title, “God Is In The Rhythm” accesses the divine through its melody, which is so beautifully aching that Mackenzie wastes zero seconds launching into it at the song’s abrupt beginning. From there, the track casually unfurls like a classic T. Rex glam ballad stretched out for six splendorous verse/chorus cycles, each answered by a guitar-solo interpretation that wrenches every last drop of pathos out of the tune.
"The Dripping Tap" (from Omnium Gatherum, 2022)
The King Gizzard canon overflows with songs that warn of our planet’s impending collapse, rage against the elites who got us to this point, and implore us to get off our apathetic asses to do something about it. But never before have they expressed those concerns as eloquently and passionately as on “The Dripping Tap,” which opens with a pleading chorus hook from Ambrose Kenny-Smith that you could almost mistake for some down-on-my-knees ’70s soul single (were it not for the lines about “suits in charge of the world” who have us “hanging by a thread”). In the face of this impossible situation, King Gizzard let go of their frustration the only they know how: by kicking into a high-octane, hypno-rock blitz that surges skyward in a plume of smoke for the next 17 minutes, as if they were on a mission to beat the billionaires to Mars to make sure they don’t fuck up that place, too.
"Interior People" (from Butterfly 3000, 2021)
On paper, Butterfly 3000 appears to be the great outlier in the Gizzard canon — not only was it recorded primarily on synths and acoustic guitars, its songs were all composed in a major key. And after spending much of their catalog tackling the biggest problems in the world through outlandish narratives and thinly veiled metaphors, Butterfly 3000 was grounded in some of McKenzie’s most personal songwriting to date, addressing the birth of his daughter, feelings of self-doubt, and the transformations we all undergo in the wake of major life changes. But as centerpiece track “Interior People” proved, Butterfly 3000 simply took a more scenic route to the Gizzard’s usual stratospheric heights. Even though it comes awash in Neu!-wave electronic textures, “Interior People” achieves a heart-pumping motorik velocity on par with the band’s hardest-charging rockers, with the added bonus of an anthemic chorus hook that’s so elating, you almost forget the song is an anti-social mission statement about feeling completely mentally drained.
"Head On/Pill" (from Float Along - Fill Your Lungs, 2013)
Over their first two albums, King Gizzard had already proved they were no standard-issue garage-rock band. While their 2012 full-length debut, 12 Bar Bruise, pledged allegiance to the Oh Sees/Ty Segall school of lo-fi, psych-damaged rock ‘n’ racket, it also included a hard detour into spoken-word spaghetti-westernized soundscaping that, on their 2013 concept album Eyes Like The Sky, graduated from exception to rule. But on their third record, Float Along – Fill Your Lungs, the King Gizzard that we know today starts to take shape — and you can pinpoint the precise moment of transformation to the 3:24 mark of its opening track, “Head On/Pill.” What begins as a sitar-speckled exercise in Brian Jonestown Massacre-style slo-mo psych-pop suddenly shifts gears into a sun-bound motorik thrust that feels so good, the band ride it out for the next 12 minutes.
"Some Of Us" / "Ontology" / "Intrasport" / "Oddlife" (from K.G., 2020)
Okay, so this is kind of cheating. However, this cluster of tracks from 2020’s K.G. needs to be heard in tandem to fully appreciate King Gizzard’s growing rhythmic dexterity in full bloom. K.G. was made in the early stages of the pandemic, with each member recording their parts separately at home, but that isolated, piecemeal process seemingly had no bearing on the final album, which contains some of the most vibrant, intuitively funky music the group has recorded. Continuing their forays into microtonal composition, these four interconnected tracks also betray the band’s growing interests outside the rock canon, as they shift between Arabic guitar melodies, fleet-flooted Afrobeat rhythms, Bollywood disco and back again, transporting us from peak to peak with a veteran DJ’s sense of fluidity.
Nonagon Infinity (2016)
This is another cheat. Nonagon Infinity is the Gizzard’s eighth full-length album, and technically, it consists of nine songs. However, the album was designed to be heard as a single piece — not only does each track barrel into the next with nary a pause, the ending of the final track (“Road Train”) sonically links to the start of the first (“Robot Stop”) to create an infinite-looping listening experience. And if there’s any King Gizzard record you’d want to hear on repeat forever, it’s this one: Nonagon Infinity is a total blast, a breathless barrage of heavy-metal krautrock and sci-fi-shocked psych-pop that folds the melodic and maniacal extremes of the Gizzard sound into a perfect package. The second you hit “play,” you’re in it for the long haul — trying to duck out after a track or two would be like trying to exit a moving car as it’s hurtling down a freeway.
Stream our picks as a Spotify playlist: