Two guitarists. Two bassists. Two drummers. One harmonica player. Dozens of crowd surfers. Several hundred gallons of sweat. All the riffs. That's a King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard show in a nutshell, although in truth, mere words cannot quite capture the fizzling, riotous experience of the Melbourne seven-piece in action.
In some ways there's something delightfully straightforward and no-nonsense about King Gizzard. Their very name suggests "psychedelic-rock band" and for the most part that's exactly what they are, although they tend towards the more melodic, stripped-down end of the spectrum than the abrasive, wigged-out rackets associated with the likes of Acid Mothers Temple. There's the long flowing hair, the sprawling twelve-minute guitar odysseys and even an extended flute solo, because of course there is.
The four piece suite of "I'm In Your Mind/I'm Not In Your Mind/Cellophane/I'm In Your Mind Fuzz" played at London's Scala tonight (9th July) serves well as an opening salvo, encapsulating the band's greatest strengths- an unpretentious lo-fi vibe married to riffs you can really bang your head to. There's jangly 60's moments, fuzzed out freakouts, a bit that kind of sounds like The Cure's "Boys Don't Cry" and Stu Mackenzie's punk-ish vocals, generally calibrated more towards sing-along potential rather than poetic brilliance. There's a fantastic use of harmonica, adding delicious texture to their noisier moments, and the use of dual musicians for almost every part gives the whole enterprise a primal force that few others can match.
But at times, King Gizzard can surprise too. For all the scintillating energy of their music, the dreadlocked Australians throwing cans of overpriced beer around and the general frenzied atmosphere pervading the Scala, as a band they're refreshingly lacking in aggression. That's not to say they're devoid of stage presence- far from it, as anyone witnessing Stu Mackenzie going full-throttle will attest to. But they come across as pretty chilled out dudes, lost in the groove and totally focused on the music rather than testosterone-fuelled meatheads one might have anticipated.
There's also a couple of unexpected musical diversions, most notably "The River," with its bouncy, 5/4 rhythm that takes more than few cues from Dave Brubeck's "Take Five." It's not their most energetic number, being a bit too mellow for moshing, but it's one that showcases the band's technical skills and suggests they're far from a one-trick pony. And it would be remiss not to mention their eccentric love letter to that most Aussie of gloopy, yeast-derived foodstuffs (sample lyric: “I love, I love my vegemite / it’s strong as hell and black as night”) which has a feel more akin to early Flaming Lips than Hawkwind.
But the most important thing is they're just a whole load of fun. Bands of this ilk are renowned for their extreme self-indulgence - and it's not entirely absent tonight - but the vast majority of the set is about as enjoyable as any live performance you'll see this year. The venue might be hotter than Charizard, but King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are truly the shizz...ard(?)