King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are to now what The Grateful Dead were to the ’70s – dauntingly prolific, lyrically inspired, and outrageously reckless in their musical excursions. And if you ask me, they’re just getting started.
Despite a swathe poly of early criticisms, The Grateful Dead released 18 albums in 14 years and defied censure as they uncapped seemingly one-dimensional genres with endlessly explorative modal interplay and telepathic space jams. The lynchpin to their success, however, was a formidable dedication to touring and perfecting their craft, both on stage and off. They struck out on the road and cut their teeth playing free shows to earn a religiously loyal cult following.
Now, 50 years on, King Gizz carry the flame, inexhaustibly pursuing perfection and simply not giving a fuck. Now let’s crack open the vault and attempt to impose some hierarchy upon the Gizzverse.
Whether you have 23 versions of Polygondwanaland or never opened the doors to Nonagon, this is every King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard album ranked.
15. Oddments (2014)
While there are some killer tracks, Oddments ultimately feels fractured and jarred. While that is clearly stated in the title, throwing a bunch of B-Sides together before they get left behind doesn’t really stand as an album concept.
Despite its shortcomings, this is the most delightfully pop-leaning Gizz record to date, hinting at an alternate reality wherein the paths split and they became the modern answer to The Beach Boys, rather than The Dead.
Fear not! The cohesive album experience is something they soon mastered… many times over.
Best track: Work This Time
14. Gumboot Soup (2017)
Another album of fragments, Gumboot Soup was a last-minute effort to come good on the madman promise made by Stu Mackenzie in 2017. A run that would later be hailed as ‘Year Of The Gizz’ saw some of the outfit’s strongest releases to date.
Much like this list’s previous entry, the listening experience is sporadic but the songwriting is significantly superior.
Best track: Beginner’s Luck
13. 12 Bar Bruise
While it was likely a welcome uppercut at the time, 12 Bar Bruise pales in hindsight to the band’s entire catalogue. The entire tracklisting has been left behind in live shows and feels awfully derivative of John Dwyer’s early sonic template. Funnily enough, Oh Sees have come to embrace more Gizz elements now with The 12″ Synth.
Nonetheless, it is an important document in Gizz’s history and shows all the signs of a band hungry as a half-starved balrog.
Best track: Muckcracker
12. Eyes Like The Sky (2013)
King Gizzard’s misfit masterpiece, Eyes Like The Sky, is a singularity. A gritty Western concept album narrated by Ambrose’s father, Broderick Smith, has become a coveted collector’s item amongst Gizzheads.
It cannot be found on Spotify and has famously only been played once in full at Melbourne’s Gizzfest, 2018. Thus it goes without saying, if you hear one of these songs live you’ve won the lottery.
Inspired by My 32 Years Among the Indians and Richard Dodge, Eyes Like The Sky is a sleeper hit and an early indication of Stu’s unhinged creative potential.
Best track: Eyes Like The Sky
11. Infest The Rats’ Nest (2019)
King Gizz once again shocked fans in 2019 when they time travelled back to 1991 and became Metallica. While the outfit are no strangers to getting heavy, Infest The Rats’ Nest plays out like more of a metal tribute album than a work dressed in originality.
Despite its nods to the past, the lyrical themes lean confidently into the future. Undoubtedly King Gizz’s most politically-minded work to date, the subject of ecological destruction is something we will likely see the band embrace further this new decade.
Best track: Self-Immolate
10. Fishing For Fishies (2019)
Breaking one year of studio silence, King Gizz returned to their grove-blues roots with Fishies For Fishies, a remarkably charming record and likely their most accessible. Cyboogie smote the internet with ‘RoboStu’ and the pleasantly innocent title track.
If anything it served as a red herring to make the arrival of Rats’ Nest all the more mind-shattering. Another testament to the versatility of Stu Mackenzie leading us to believe he must be the world’s most lovable bipolar genius.
Best track: Cyboogie
9. Murder Of The Universe
The album that opened the door the Gizzverse, Murder Of The Universe is the band’s most ambitious concept album yet and it very nearly lands on four feet. While Leah Senior’s deadpan spoken word is a nice counterweight to the sonic freneticism, it ultimately feels overdone and truncated, sounding more like Allan Watts with Tourettes than an omniscient creator.
Despite its minor shortcomings – it came in the middle of 2017 for god’s sake – Murder Of The Universe birthed some of Gizz’s finest rock tunes. Altered Beast and Lord Of Lightning are sludgy ingots of golden psychedelic gloop, which now serve as a fitting sonic conduit to the Rats’ Nest material in their live performances.
Best track: Lord Of Lightning
8. Paper Maché Dream Balloon (2015)
In 2015, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard defied expectations with Quarters! a groove-driven concept album of lush, Dead-esque jams. A far cry from Mind Fuzz, they threw yet another curveball by dropping an entirely acoustic disc of folk bliss.
Bitter Boogie and Sense have become sacred texts for those under the tutelage of Gizz scholars, and it’s the first record to feature Stu busting out some Aqualung on the flute. Essential listening for anyone looking to sail smoothly into the turbulent sea of Gizz.
Best track: Sense
7. Sketches of Brunswick East (2017)
King Gizzard’s only collaboration album, Sketches Of Brunswick East, is a jazz-prog nod to their hometown. Experimenting with tapes and loops, Stu created a woozy breeze through a tipsy Summer haze.
Mild High Club lynchpin Alexander Brettin brings the crux of jazz here making for a more or less jazz-inspired album. Unsurprisingly, it’s the perfect album to get mildly high too. Sketches would be higher it wasn’t for the sheer quality of rest of their work.
Best Track: The Book
6. Float Along – Fill Your Lungs (2013)
Largely known for its behemoth opener, Head On/Pill is a holy grail amongst hardcore fans and is the moment that Gizz became, well, Gizz. The 16-minute leviathan begins as a fuzzed-out, snake-charmer before blasting off into the stratosphere from which the band never returned.
Trivia note: The Head On/Pill medley closes Live In Adelaide ’19 features Mildlife’s Adam Halliwell on flute.
Best track: Head On/Pill
5. Flying Microtonal Banana (2017)
Refusing to rest on their laurels, Gizz delved into quarter tones in 2017 for an epic krautrock exploration on Flying Microtonal Banana. The magnificent Rattlesnake brushes the surface of the mainstream as they barrel down the desert road. Never has a track been more appropriate for the vibraslap.
Sleepdrifter, Open Water, and Nuclear Fusion are all a welcome step up from the muddy depths of 2016’s Nonagon and push the band’s songwriting. A blueprint for krautrock mastery that will no doubt survive the next 50 years, Flying Microtonal Banana is top-notch work. Rattlesnake! Rattlesnake! Rattlesnake!
Best track: Rattlesnake
4. Quarters! (2015)
Besides the endlessly groovy opener, The River, the other tracks on Quarters! merely live to serve the album’s concept. This is a minor fault in an otherwise faultless album, however, because the opening track is so ridiculously sublime it carries the rest on its shoulders.
Plus who doesn’t love a blissed-out jam track? Lonely Steel Sheet Flyer and God Is In The Rhythm are exceptional pieces of Gizz wizardry and perfectly fill out the corners of a most beloved record.
Best track: The River
3. Nonagon Infinity (2016)
I still remember rocketing down a remote highway the first time I heard Nonagon Infinity open the door and my mind is still splattered on the tarmac. The infinite loop of psych-punk perfection is absolutely on the money from start to finish.
No crap, no bullshit. Just a one-way ticket through sonic hell and we are never jumping the carriage. From Robo Stop to People Vultures, the serpentlike septet tapped into some seriously potent stuff while in the Nonagon portal. A truly precious album.
Best track: People Vultures
2. I’m In Your Mind Fuzz (2014)
If King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard ever made a greatest hits album this would be it. Her and I, Hot Water, Cellophane and the Mind Fuzz medley, are all magnificently throttling and magnificently Gizz.
No work has so triumphantly endured Gizz’s many setlist changes or sparked as many moshpits as Mind Fuzz. The soundworld is a perfect blend of garage and psych with phasers, filter sweeps, distortion, whipcrack delays and plenty of Stu’s “Eeeeeeeyup’s” filling in the gaps. It also presents some of the band’s most singable melodies. Quintessential Gizz.
Best track: Cellophane
1. Polygondwanaland (2017)
In terms of cohesive soundscapes and songwriting chops, Polygondwanaland tops the lot. It’s a masterpiece of maximalism and one helluva ride from start to finish. No other album so readily waits to transport upon its unfolding.
Sure it might not feature as many of their psych-pop classics, but as one cohesive artwork, Polygondwanaland takes the cake. From the monolithic, almost operatic Crumbling Castle, this is Gizz songwriting at its most advanced. Every section and part has purpose, building the tension to near biblical proportions as you are drawn into their mad Aztec ritual.
Inner Cell flaunts gorgeous melodies amidst the madness, contrasting Loyalty with its fluttering flute led coda and Stu’s haunting lyric, “I will draw and quarter all their children/Just to prove I’m not a coward”. A dazzling bookend comes in Fourth Colour with its explosive hocket choruses and lightning-fast riffs.
Furthermore, the genius release strategy – falling in-step with Radiohead’s In Rainbows – breathed potent and uncontrollable life into the album. Yet this time they took it a step further. Aside from mirroring the cheapening of physical media by streaming services, King Gizzard gave fans and labels complete autonomy over their music and its release structure. The result was an unlimited number of versions and covers, with the most intriguing being a charmingly ’90s chiptune re-imagining in 8-bit. A veritable wet dream for collectors.
While the top end of this list will invariably differ amongst Gizz fans, it’s safe to assume that every album is worthy, one way or another, of the crown that sits atop the head of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard as they charge onwards.
Best track: The Fourth Colour