Stu & the gang are back! Just a few short months after the release of L.W., we’re getting a new album from the boys. Still, that’s not really surprising at this point considering the band is known for being able to churn out multiple projects in a single year, most notably with their five album run in 2017. It’s common knowledge at this point that King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are one of the most interesting modern rock groups due to their willingness to experiment with genre, structure, and even different types of tonality with their microtonal albums. Butterfly 3000 is no different, but not in the way most of us would expect.
Instead of diving deeper into psychedelic madness, Butterfly 3000 is them coming back up for a breath of fresh air. The album throws microtonality and heaviness out the window, fully embracing the sounds of softer, happier melodic psych-pop for 43 minutes. This is actually due to lead singer and face of the band Stu Mackenzie having a child during quarantine. Fatherhood influenced Stu to channel his songwriting into a different direction here, and it paid off. Even though it seems like they’re not as boundary pushing as before, there’s still lots of King Gizzard DNA all over the album that makes it unique. Most notably, even though the album is 10 tracks long, all the songs lead into the next one besides the closer, so it’s possible to listen to the entire album as one giant 43 minute song. The steady, tight drumming permeates throughout the whole album as Stu’s vocals dance around arpeggiated looping synth lines that create a super satisfying back & forth dynamic. Their prog roots also haven’t gone anywhere; the group translates odd time signatures and melodies very well into a catchier and more digestible pop form while still being distinctly Gizzard-esque.
Tracks like “Shanghai”, “Dreams” and “Catching Smoke” are definitely highlights. They don’t do much different compared to the rest of the album, but pull off the mix of accessible psych-pop with prog elements extremely well and end up lingering in your head well after you’ve listened to them. “2.02 Killer Year” revisits a topic King Gizzard has talked about throughout the years, climate change. Although their approach on “Planet B” was angry, blatant and in your face, “2.02 Killer Year” pulls from a more relaxed position. Instead of being aggressive about the issues our planet faces, this track takes inspiration from the attitude of surf rock and notably, The Beach Boys. In fact, Stu said in an interview with Stereogum: “-like, who writes a nice song about climate change? And this isn’t necessarily supposed to be one. But I think it’s just trying to have that other perspective. Like, ‘Let’s go surfing, the waves are massive!’” (Berman, Story Behind Butterfly 3000)
I do have my own issues with the album. Although the continuous album idea is great in practice and on paper for most of its runtime, it ends up pulling it off a little too well. Some songs begin to quite literally blend together and I start to lose track of when a new one would begin and end. The drums don’t really help this, unfortunately. While the performances themselves are great, most of the songs seem to be at the same general BPM. This leads to the drums sounding extremely similar throughout the album and end up fading into the background if you listen to the whole project front to back.
Ultimately, this is really enjoyable. It’s a very consistent and quality break from King Gizzards’ normal sound. “Shanghai” and “Dreams” are gonna be summer staples, and the rest of the album is nothing to sneeze at either. Even if you swear by albums in their discography like Nonagon Infinity, I’m In Your Mind Fuzz, and Flying Microtonal Banana, this is still very much worth a listen and I’m sure you’ll come away with at least a few tracks you’ll enjoy.