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Albums By The Murlocs And King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard Explore New Sounds


This is FRESH AIR. Rock critic Ken Tucker has listened to new albums by two Australian bands, The Murlocs and King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard. The bands share some of the same musicians, and Ken says that between them, the sheer variety of the genres of music they explore is staggering. Here's his review of "Bittersweet Demons" by The Murlocs and "Butterfly 3000" by King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard.


THE MURLOCS: (Singing) Live out of love, not reward. You're the angel I adored. Lionized through the eyes of the ones left behind. Fall apart. Start again. Self-destruction. It's hard to shake. Come one with your bittersweet demons today.

KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: The Murlocs are a funky little band from Melbourne, Australia, that feature Ambrose Kenny-Smith on vocals, guitar and harmonica. They've been around for about a decade, and "Bittersweet Demons" is their fifth album. If you take nothing else away from this review, dig this song called "Francesca," a blistering bit of high-pitched blues rock about Kenny Smith's mother.


THE MURLOCS: (Singing) Oh, my eyes are on you with all your stars and lines. Oh, sweet Francesca. I can see it in your stride. Something's changing. Something's going right.

TUCKER: The Murlocs are sort of a side project to a larger enterprise, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, where Ambrose Kenny-Smith and guitarist Cook Craig join other musicians to create albums that amalgamate nearly every kind of pop music you can think of. And I am talking about a lot of albums. Since their 2010 debut, the King Gizzard collective has put out 18 studio albums, nine live albums and numerous EPs. The latest studio album, "Butterfly 3000," is their second 2021 release and very much a result of coronavirus and lockdowns, recorded with band members mostly separated from each other, performed more on synthesizers than their usual battery of guitars. The result is propulsive techno pop, such as this song, "Yours."


KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD: (Singing) Did you know he's yours? He's the wheel you steer. Tomorrow, still yours. You can lean on...

TUCKER: But that song and this King Gizzard album is nothing like the rest of the Gizzard discography, which is variously filled with heavy metal, progressive rock, psychedelic pop, punk and, well, generally heavy stuff. I favor their 2017 album, "Murder Of The Universe," for the swiftness of its heaviness.


KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD: (Singing) I think I see an altered beast by the tree. Hey. Take a peek if you would dare. Half-made of man, half of bear. He came from underneath. I met an altered beast. I think I see an altered beast by the creek.

TUCKER: Given my preference for tighter pop songcraft, I'd say I'll probably listen to the Murlocs more often, but heaven knows the King Gizzard discography lays out a very generous buffet from which to sample. If you're looking to spend part of your summer exploring new sounds, these Australians have more than enough material to keep you grazing for days on end.

BIANCULLI: Rock critic Ken Tucker reviewed new albums by two Australian bands, The Murlocs and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. Coming up, I'll review the new second season of the Apple TV+ plus comedy series "Ted Lasso." This is FRESH AIR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ken Tucker reviews rock, country, hip-hop and pop music for Fresh Air. He is a cultural critic who has been the editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly, and a film critic for New York Magazine. His work has won two National Magazine Awards and two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards. He has written book reviews for The New York Times Book Review and other publications.
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