Psychedelia is in a strange place. Only a month ago did we see headlines announcing the arrival of Tame Impala's "psychedelic" new song - a song that wasn't fundamentally psychedelic at all. If this is the barometer in 2019, then King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard continue to dole out a sonic weirdness that should have had them exiled from decent society years ago.
Or at least, that was traditionally the narrative that would come with a new Gizzard release. But fourteen albums in, and Fishing for Fishies is quite a different beast - and not in the sense that a new King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard album usually is. This latest record is, dare I say, downright accessible. It's an album that, with all good sense and logic being applied to it, should not remotely work. But by God does it.
Reading all of the press preamble, I can't help but agree that they have achieved everything they have set out to do with this album. Of the album as a whole, frontman Stu Mackenzie said: "We tried to make a blues record. A blues-boogie-shuffle-kinda-thing", and I struggle to find a more fitting and candid description of this record than that.
At the topmost level, it's funky, shuffling, textbook bluesy instrumentation, layered with appropriately weird lyrics, breathy vocalisation, and all of the usual Gizzard trimmings. It feels like a jam session that got out of hand, very quickly.
The songs transition into one another effortlessly - the transition from 'Acarine' to 'Cyboogie' in particular is almost pornographic. We begin Fishing for Fishies with the title track, a song which quickly establishes a shuffling, babbling brook kind of tone that follows through in the rest of the album. It's a song that, on the surface, has an overtly environmental message, but could be argued to be a sort of manifesto for the tracks that follow.
Mackenzie says of the creative process involved in the album: "...we let the songs guide us this time; we let them have their own personalities and forge their own path....". It's impossible not to relate this to lyrics urging us to let the eponymous 'fishies' freely swim. No matter how you choose to interpret it, the distorted vocals, glistening guitar and rousing harmonica send-off, atop undeniably toe-tapping percussion paints a bright and positive picture to kick things off, in spite of the relatively dour message underneath it all.
Before long, it's a thigh-slapping bluesy knees-up, courtesy of 'Boogieman Sam', 'The Bird Song', 'Plastic Boogie' and 'The Cruel Millennial.' There are shades of Seasick Steve, Black Keys or early-doors Cage The Elephant, all with the obligatorily-weird Gizzard veneer.
These songs are about as radio-friendly and accessible as the band have ever been, and at album fourteen, that seems particularly odd. I never thought I'd say that about a single Gizzard song, let alone an entire Gizzard album.
'Real's Not Real' is one of the best songs on the album, with a promisingly dirty bluesy start that's wildly at odds with the rest of the album, but that quickly returns to the established good time groove. Something of a turning point, from here, 'Fishing for Fishies' becomes more space-age and robotic. Ambrose Kenny-Smith's harmonica blasts become all the more insistent from this point onwards, and we drift away from established blues standards with harp flourishes and other decidedly weird touches. Before long, the robots have fully taken over.
All this before we've even considered the sensory overload, the sheer cyber pomp and circumstance of 'Acarine''s final seconds, and magnificent closer 'Cyboogie.' A single which made little sense without the context of the tracks that preceded it, we can now appreciate it for what it actually represents: the robots have won, and we're going King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard by way of Daft Punk to close out.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are a band that have always been reliably weird and innovative. In Fishing for Fishies, they have gone down a decidedly safer route – but its humid, summertime sound is infectious.