In 2013, Kanye West famously claimed that “rap is the new rock and roll.” To some, this was simply a moronic statement from an ego-centrical loudmouth in the midst of an album promotion circuit. But to others, this spoke on the massive shift occurring in music culture.
The first five months of 2016 can serve as primary evidence for West’s rash words. So far, the year has been shrouded by stellar hip hop releases that have mesmerized huge audiences. But where is the stellar guitar music? Why would anyone pay to go see a Guns N’ Roses reunion show over a high-energy Kendrick Lamar performance? Sadly, much like its aging superstars, rock music is currently dying.
However, King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard are soaring above these aging rock bands. Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, the Gizzards may be one of the few remaining torch bearers for real rock and roll.
Their latest release, Nonagon Infinity, is basically a 41 minute continuous jam made up of multiple “wahs,” ”twangs,” and two very upbeat drumlines. But this King Gizzard jam doesn’t really end, it can keep going seamlessly and endlessly. The album title, Nonagon Infinity, essentially lays out the album groundwork: the nonagon, a nine-sided shape, is representative of the nine songs on the album, looped into infinity.
King Gizzard haven’t changed their seven man lineup for Nonagon Infinity. Listeners can still bask in the band’s signature three electric guitars, two drumkits, one bass guitar, one keyboard, razor-like vocals and other wind instruments. But the Gizzard train doesn’t slow down there, it delves further into musical creativity by feeding all native instrumental sounds through countless guitar and effects pedals. To an outsider, this may seem excessive or even absurd but everything makes complete sense when listening to the whole album. Every minuscule seeming twang is carefully constructed into the musical narrative.
In an alternate universe, Nonagon Infinity would be the perfect soundtrack to a Mad Max movie. The vocals are abrupt and war-chant like there is no time for dreamy metaphors and the lyrics have to keep up with the angry basslines. The three electric guitars are frequently wailing into each other, filling up every instance of empty sonic space and also creating an overwhelming sense of urgency throughout the album. Yet, this urgency isn’t a bad thing; much like a Mad Max movie, Nonagon Infinity is a stern slap on the listener’s face. King Gizzard is not making music for depressed teenagers who are fixated on never-ending internet feeds. Nonagon Infinity is meant to funnel humongous amounts of energy into its listeners. It is the perfect cure for content nausea.
Pioneer rock bands have had a resounding impact on Nonagon Infinity’s sound. “People-Vultures’” long drum fills and tight guitar solos are reminiscent of Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All. “Road Train” could have fit perfectly into any early Black Sabbath album. “Invisible Face’s” mid-song break would be applauded by Jerry Garcia’s Grateful Dead. This is rock and roll’s version of sampling and it’s being performed to a tee in Nonagon Infinity.
It is safe to say that Nonagon Infinity is one of 2016’s best rock albums. Our generations’ prominent rock bands have been shockingly quiet. The Arctic Monkeys have no shows currently scheduled and Tame Impala have lost their dirty, space-like riffs to a more pop-based sound. But the Gizzards are soldiering on for this dying cause.
Rappers being rockstars may be the new norm, but as long as King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are around, rock and roll will never be replaced. Someone, somewhere will always crave for heavy, senseless guitar riffs to get through their monotonous days.