There’s an idiomatic quotation, often attributed to Mark Twain in various forms, that’s something to the tune of “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.” Well, the same can be said about the career trajectory of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. Whether it’s microtonal instruments or infinitely loops or restricting every track to precisely the same length, each album the Australian acid rock group releases seems to be bent on establishing its own distinct and calculated sound apart from any artistic explorations that have come before it. As we’ve come to expect, the band’s fourteenth studio album, the eco-conscious cautionary tale Fishing for Fishies, doesn’t feel like any other King Gizzard record, but like their most gratifying releases, it’s clear that they had a ball while making it.
In years to come, Fishing for Fishies will be remembered for its downhome vibes. The album is filled with bluesy road anthems, like “Boogieman Sam” and “The Cruel Millennial,” grungy rockers that make the most of harmonica vibrato. As in the past, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard use bright upbeat instrumentation to mask the darker thematic elements of the lyrics. One of the album’s most seemingly celebratory numbers is “Plastic Boogie,” however the Southern sway front porch music that invites audience participation (even including enthusiastic fans cheering the band on and bottles clinking together on the track ) is simply used to cover up its environmental doomsday prophecy hidden underneath.
Like many King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard records, Fishing for Fishies feels lost in time, and when it isn’t laying down sultry blues sessions, it seems to harken back to the glory days of playful psychedelia. So much of their charisma is derived from tapping into a collective groove, and as a result, they invoke a plethora of other jam bands that came before them. The warm, experimental folk of “Fishing for Fishies” is only a few degrees away from a Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci track and the piano-driven, jazzy “The Bird Song” wouldn’t feel terribly out of place on a Steely Dan album. Sometimes the band will create a swirling cocktail of their influences, as with “Real’s Not Real,” a fuzzy arena rock fake-out that bleeds into a peppy 70s-esque pop tune and gravitates back again.
As we move throughout these sprawling tracks, homegrown Americana gives way to automation, and we are sent forth into the digital age, possibly hinting at the aesthetic direction of the band’s next endeavor. Beginning with “This Thing,” a dive bar blues fit that culminates in a musical trip around the world, King Gizzard sheds the country rock affectation for a more futuristic sound. Following “Acarine,” a sweeping desert trek with quite a lot on its mind, Fishing for Fishies finishes with full-on space-age electronica, as “Cyboogie” blossoms into a lengthy synthwave jam number.
Each King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard album seems to be the result of a band who continuously boxes themselves into specific parameters in order to see what comes out on the other side. That experimentation has produced some truly inspired work (Float Along – Fill Your Lungs, Nonagon Infinity), but it certainly isn’t a guaranteed recipe for success. If you were to lay out every King Gizzard album in order in terms of quality, Fishing for Fishies would most likely make out somewhere in the middle, but it fully displays the Aussie rockers’ animated charm as they continue to make engaging music without allowing themselves to take any of it too seriously.