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Album Review: King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Paper Mâché Dream Balloon

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It felt wrong to be listening to Paper Mâché Dream Balloon, the latest release from Melbourne-based group King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, on a crappy winter’s day in Montreal. This sunny collection of songs provides a healthy dose of summer nostalgia, with simple melodies and gentle chord progressions that will make you want to float off down a lazy river somewhere.

Like many artists in the same vein as Gizzard (Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, and White Fence, to name a few), the references to 60’s psychedelia and 70’s rock are apparent and plentiful. With clean vocal harmonies and a hummable tune, the song Dirt immediately brings to mind a Peter, Paul & Mary folk feeling but with the added excitement of a driving drum beat. Other songs, like The Bitter Boogie, reminisce on early Southern rockers like ZZ-Top with a steady, dirty groove holding down the track and a wailing harmonica solo flying overhead. But though the band shows some clear influence from other groups, Paper Mâché Dream Balloon is its own unique idea. The album features extremely diverse use of instrumentation that’s evident even from a brief scan through the liner notes: flute, clarinet, violin, sitar, harmonica, bongo, double bass  are all listed as having made an appearance among many others. But it never seems too much – the instruments often play simple riffs in unison with each other, serving to accent the band’s rhythm section instead of drowning it out with an overdose of unique voices.

Perhaps the crown jewel of the album is the fourth track with the same title of the album. The song takes a step away from the simple, happy-go-lucky feel of the previous three tracks; starting with a slow, drum heavy feel, it quickly transforms into an upbeat, dance-y song that’s heavy on thick vocal harmonies and an amazingly executed flute melody from the group’s lead vocalist (and, apparently, flautist), Stu Mackenzie. This song leads the way for the more experimental material of the album, like Trapdoor with its distorted vocal track and irregular metre, and the aforementioned Bitter Boogie.

Listening to this album felt almost like receiving a well-awaited gift, and I hope that my fellow lovers of light rock/folk/psychedelia would be inclined to agree. If you are desperately seeking an escape from a winter that is undoubtedly here for the long haul, Dream Balloon is more than capable of taking you away for a wonderful, if not all too short, 33:54 minutes of warm, summer bliss.

-Review by Nora Duffy