Gigs feel like something from a different world. Poorly poured beer and the jostling for a decent spot, overpriced merchandise and the absurdity of encores. And now they feel like something exotic and distant. Getting a new live album in the middle of lockdown both feels like a tease and a relief.
Australian seven-piece King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s live album isn’t their first. It’s their fourth live record. They are prolific. Somehow, the Melbourne residents have managed to release fifteen studio albums since their debut in 2012.
Here’s the thing about live albums. In the main, they’re terrible – the sort of afterthought by more prominent bands who need a release for the Christmas market. But King Gizz (as I’m now referring them to save word count) have released a beauty.
I first saw the band in 2015 at Latitude. Rake-thin members with the confidence you need to carry off both the band’s sound and their prolific release schedule. The only reason I went to see them was because of the band’s name. When the lead singer spat up in the air and caught it again (in his mouth) during the first song it was 50:50. The band either had to be brilliant or barking mad. In King Gizz’s case – it was both. Frenetic but tight. They can really play. Set up with two drummers. It was an experience. Brash, loud and memorable. And hearing this record, it’s like being taken back there.
Chunky Shrapnel (what an album title!) is beautifully recorded. Take the track ‘Wah Wah’, from a Madrid show last year. It begins with singer Stu Mackenzie (predictably) singing “Wah Wah” and the audience immediately sings along. It’s what you want from a live album. You want to smell the smoke machine and feel like you’ve spent the night pushed up against a guy who needs a better hygiene routine.
King Gizz have managed to keep things fresh. See their 2017 album where they made heavy use of a Zurna, a Turkish horn. As an aside, the album’s name was Flying Microtonal Banana. Terrific.
The varied nature of their career means that you get such odd juxtapositions on Chunky Shrapnel. For example, ‘Hell’, an old school metal track leads directly into ‘Let Me Mend The Past’, a heartfelt bluesy song which could comfortably sit on a White Stripes album.
Sign up for our FREE Reaction Weekend Email
Read the week's best-read articles on politics, business and geopolitics
Receive offers and exclusive invites
Plus uplifting cultural commentary
Admittedly, this isn’t going to be for everyone. It is heavy in parts. But if you’re willing to put the effort in, there is much here to enjoy.
The album is accompanied by a part-documentary, part-concert film. It gets you up close with the band on various dates during their European tour. Shot on film, it has the grubby quality of a gig. It’s unnarrated, but with enough conversation between the band to let you in. It’s not intended to be a behind the scenes expose. But, hearing the band moaning about having to do press, or mocking larger groups who turn up from their hotel without warming up gives you a sense of who they are.
Seeing it is the best way to enjoy the album. It’s available to stream for one day only (having been available for one day last week too). It’s worth it for anyone who is musically adventurous or a rock aficionado. And, quite honestly, given the likelihood of gigs being back on any time soon is low, why the hell not. It’s not likely you’re going to see a flute solo at a show in person this side of Christmas.
Chunky Shrapnel is King Gizz at the peak of their powers. Whether you watch it or listen to it it’s a joy to see a band having this much fun.
Track Pick: ‘A Brief History of Planet Earth’