So, at the end of 2016, I thought I’d try and ease myself back into criticism by writing a piece about my ten favourite records of the year. I ended up writing over 2,000 words in the document, but in truth the whole exercise never went anywhere because I was mentally exhausted after a strenuous twelve weeks working for my MA. Also, I had belatedly come across Noname’s Telefone and was so floored by it that I had no idea how to do it any justice. The only summary I got to any kind of satisfactory standard was this one about King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s Nonagon Infinity, which I’ll publish here as a capsule review. Better that than leave it to rot in the dreaded “Things” folder on my desktop *shudder*.
When King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard are really going hell-for-leather on Nonagon Infinity, which is most of the time, I imagine them playing atop Castle Grayskull during an unremitting thunderstorm, before a blood red sky strewn with colossal bolts of lightning and dragons breathing fire and other cool shit. This is, make no mistake, fucking ridiculous cartoon music – a blisteringly bananas garage-/psych-rock freak out – and it’s just about the most fun I’ve had with a record this year. And sure, it’s nothing you haven’t heard before, especially if you’re into Thee Oh Sees or the myriad works of Ty Segall, but it’s elevated by the band’s irrepressible gusto, their imaginative compositions, and, most crucially in my mind, their playful touch. Indeed, it’s perhaps unsurprising that a band called King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard should accentuate and revel in the latent silliness of balls-out rock music, but I was nonetheless taken by their commitment to pushing almost every element to a glorious level of excess. And, somewhat ingeniously, this excess is as much a function of the album’s structure as it is the band’s playing (necessarily ferocious, but also exacting) or their approach to production (creating an imposing wall of sound by affording each layer very little headspace in a lo-fi smog). As was often noted at the time of release, Nonagon Infinity is essentially one infinitely looping piece of music: its nine tracks mutate, reference, and bleed into each other, and when final track ‘Road Train’ abruptly ends, opening track ‘Robot Stop’ immediately begins (provided you’ve got it on repeat, anyway). It’s a cute gimmick, to be sure. But the effect is, strangely, similar to that of a DJ set that keeps going and going and going, offering little respite for the listener or performers over the album’s (judiciously short) forty minutes. In the moment, then, it’s like King Gizzard are playing faster, louder, and, crucially, longer than just about any other band ever could. And there are fire-breathing dragons, and there’s lighting everywhere, and the band is playing atop Castle Grayskull, and it’s glorious.