The cover of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s third album of 2017 portrays a city under construction. The textured drawing is only halfway colored in, roads are interchangeable with piano keys, and miscellaneous items pepper a corner of the Melbourne suburb. These are a few of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s sketches of Brunswick East.
Brunswick East is going through a massive transition. The city of ~11,500 – a former textile manufacturing hub – has struggled to withstand the tide of gentrification that often accompanies an area’s pivot away from industry and toward white-collar professions. Globalization and gentrification have permanently replaced factories and warehouses with flats and commercial buildings. The members of King Gizzard have watched as their city pushes out longtime residents to pave the way for mid- to high-end apartments. And they’ve struggled to understand the chaotic, often unjust transition.
Sketches of Brunswick East is their attempt to understand, or at least survive through, the transition. It’s beautiful music that hovers over the chaos, observing the city’s rapid changes from above. The noises of the city – cricket chirps, dog barks, trams – echo through “Dusk To Dawn on Lygon Street,” but don’t overpower the cool jazzy tune. “Sketches of Brunswick East I, II, & III” utilize flutes and pianos to lay a calming blanket over the restless city. From their apartment, the members of King Gizzard make music to cope with, observe, and remain chill amid the changes.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are watchers and creators. Like the flaneurs of impressionist-era France, they’re strollers of the city, documenters of modernity, and creators of art. They’re neither interested in supporting or actively toppling the dominant structure, but rather exposing its rifts. Though slightly political (the political and the artistic will always overlap), they’re more concerned with sketching the world around them than changing it.
Being observers, King Gizzard are keenly aware of their influences and their sound. Sketches of Brunswick East, a reference to Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain, is a surprising hop into the jazz realm for a group that usually leans more psychedelic rock. Jazz describes Brunswick East in a way their usual sound could not, making the group’s collaboration with the jazzy Mild High Club a wonderful decision.
From the Mild High side, we get groovy beats, soothing melodies, and twangy guitar solos. From the King Gizzard side, we get a recap of world music for the past eighty years: North African instrumentals, synth pop, surf rock, psychedelic rock, etc. Together, we get tunes like “The Spider And Me,” a sunny song with obvious implications of an acid trip.
Possibly the best example of “hovering over the chaos” on the album, “The Spider And Me” is a simple tune about sitting under a tree with a spider. Factories are bulldozed, new cities rise, and neighbors revolve, but the beauty of interacting with nature is constant. Regardless of East Brunswick’s changes, King Gizzard will “sit around, giggling free, under the tree” with a spider.
In chaotic times, sometimes it is necessary to just stroll, observe, learn, and grow. On their 11th studio album, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard prove that they are continuing to learn and grow, while helping me observe and appreciate the little wonders of nature. For that, they are my Sunday’s Best.
Happy Labor Day, everyone! I hope you got to spend some relaxing time with nature this weekend.