It’s hard to tell if King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard is a joke. The band actually began as a joke and a side-project, as each of the band members played a different instrument in other Australian bands. The name itself, which is admittedly hilarious for all of its silly rhymes, could go either way. But, the Aussie septet’s seventh LP Paper Mâché Dream Balloon is an acoustic experiment different from any of their other offerings, and by all accounts, decidedly serious on its ATO Records debut.
Mostly King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard is known as a psych-rock band that plays loud rock ’n’ roll, but Paper Mâché Dream Balloon sounds more like what would happen if The Doors played hacky sack in their spare time. All of the band members continue to mess with instruments they’ve never played before, including a clarinet, double bass, and cello. But there are also hand drums, djembes, flutes, and harmonics all swaying and shaking like old hippies dancing.
The 12 acoustic tracks on Paper Mâché Dream Balloon are the aural equivalent of watching babysitting your high friends at a fest. They might be tripping balls in outer space, but you’re stuck watching them lay in a field, which, truth be told, is pretty boring. The bass voice on “Trapdoor” is manipulated until it warbles like a croaking frog. “N.G.R.I (Bloodstain)” features a harmonica solo fit for a Blues Traveler record. “Cold Cadaver” pairs sweet-sounding voices, even if they croon together about dead bodies over major chords. And “Paper Mâché” concludes the weird experiment with a 40-second alien spaceship freak out that ends when a sonic boom ends the acoustic trip.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard has earned a reputation for being ADD with its styles, and frontman Stu Mackenzie has gone on record stating that he wants to be in a band that changes its sound unpredictably from album to album. That can work sometimes, and it can certainly keep things interesting for those performing in the group. But, for listeners who might get attached to one particular style of Lizard Wizardry, it also presents a high risk of failure for the band. Paper Mâché Dream Balloon is one way that does not work.