King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard's 20 Best Songs Ranked

We're counting down the highlights of their huge discography — until they release yet another new album a few months from now

Photo: Jason Galea

BY Isabel Glasgow Published Jun 15, 2023

Listening to King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard's 23-album, 231-song discography takes 16 hours and 21 minutes — that is, if you exclude a couple demo and early rarities compilations, two officially released live albums, and a seemingly endless stream of live bootlegs that have fans battling over whether "The River" sounded better at Levitation '16, Luxembourg '19 or Brisbane '21. To know the entire King Gizzard discography is to cram a whole KALLAX square with their records, and amidst an ever-growing stream of garage, psych, blues, prog, microtonal tunings, thrash metal, synthpop, soul, folk, jazz and Spaghetti Western spoken word, plus one or two vaguely Satanic hip-hop songs, where do you start? 

While it's well-known that King Gizzard is wildly prolific and unpredictable — where a bubbly synth album full of butterfly imagery can shortly follow thrash metal threats of humanity's eternal damnation — what's truly remarkable is how skillfully consistent they are. Genre-hopping is one feat, but being able to do so excellently while maintaining a unique sound is another.

To listen to King Gizzard's discography is to witness a group of six incredibly talented musicians indulging in their creativity and deep love of music. They're not necessarily trying to invent new sounds, but they're always keen to try something that they've never done.

Before they release 20 more songs faster than you can say PetroDragonic Apocalypse; or, Dawn of Eternal Night, Annihilation of Planet Earth and the Beginning of Merciless Damnation, let's take a look at their top 20 best songs — for now. 

20. "Interior People"
Butterfly 3000 (2021)

Don't be fooled by its sunshine melody — this Butterfly 3000 track written by guitarist Joey Walker creeps into an otherwise cheery album like an intrusive thought. Dark thoughts are personified as menacing shadowy figures lurking round the corners of the mind, yet the rich piano chords and lush chorus provide a glimmer of hope that maybe it's not impossible to "punch through the drywall inside my skull." 

19. "Robot Stop"
Nonagon Infinity (2016)

"Nonagon infinity opens the door," chants vocalist/guitarist Stu Mackenzie as if casting a spell, making it nearly impossible for King Gizzard fans to convince outsiders they're not part of a cult. The propulsive opening track of infinitely looping Nonagon Infinity is one of their finest garage psych freakouts, seemingly running on endless adrenaline, just like the band who made it.

18. "Am I in Heaven?"
I'm in Your Mind Fuzz (2014)

"I've got ideas in my brain about the end of the world that I won't even say," sang Mackenzie in 2014, before writing about 25 songs and three entire concept albums about just that. We have to hand it to him for writing one song about heaven before all the hellfire. Opening in a lo-fi hiss of acoustic guitar with lyrics drenched in psychedelia, you'd mistake it for a lost gem from the '60s until it flips itself upside down into a propulsive garage psych rager that seems to sprawl upwards into the sky.

17. "Digital Black"
Murder of the Universe (2017)

High energy is a given when it comes to King Gizzard. "Digital Black" opens like a sonic slap in the face, Mackenzie's signature tongue-out stance nearly visible as jagged guitar melts into a wall of screechy feedback. A little sci-fi, a little goblinesque, and relentlessly heavy, mention of vicious dark beasts and a brief spoken word interlude by a robot leave us wondering: is anyone down for Dungeons & Dragons

16. "Gila Monster"
PetroDragonic Apocalypse; or, Dawn of Eternal Night: An Annihilation of Planet Earth and the Beginning of Merciless Damnation (2023)

Like the skin of its subject, "Gila Monster" balances metallic blackness with light, resulting in a song that's as tongue-in-cheek as it is fork-tongued. Between gang vocal shouts of "Gila! Gila!" and some ripping guitar solos, Mackenzie's chants of "beware ye witches fair, lest thee be spied by dragon-glare" position him like the narrator of a fantasy video game, with multi-instrumentalist Ambrose Kenny-Smith in the persona of the reptile in a hilarious grumbly growl. You either die as King Gizzard, or see yourself live long enough to become the Lizard Wizard.

15. "The Wheel"
Gumboot Soup (2017)

Many of the best King Gizzard songs are those co-written by Mackenzie and Kenny-Smith, as made clear on this quietly profound meditation on time and mortality. The uneasy realization that we "fall asleep willingly at the wheel that steers us into our future" feels both jarring and ironically suited to its sleepy arrangement of jazzy drums and piano. Its rising intensity and increasing speed mirrors the anxiety of the passage of time — yet it seems like King Gizzard know how to maximize it best.

14. "Hot Wax"
Oddments (2014)

One of the shinier nuggets of their early garage rock days, "Hot Wax" oozes and melts all over itself at a queasy lurch that leads us through a world where candle wax is seemingly everywhere. Its reverb-drenched production and trippy panning add a gooey, dizzying texture as vocals switch between Mackenzie's diabolical deadpan and Kenny-Smith's sky-high falsetto. Punctuated by razor-sharp surf riffs and a harmonica line that sounds haunted, it's nightmare fuel at its finest. 

13. "Rattlesnake"
Flying Microtonal Banana (2017)

"Rattlesnake" became a bit of a meme upon release due to its repetitiveness — yes, he does sing "rattlesnake" 54 times for three quarters of the song — but its strength lies in its krautrock minimalism. Chugging along for eight minutes of mostly the same chord and motorik drum beat, each occasional squawky guitar note, piano trill, harmonica riff and Turkish zurna (all microtonal, of course) hits even harder. Its menace culminates with a few vaguely Satanic verses, making it all the more sinister.

12. "Nuclear Fusion"
Flying Microtonal Banana (2017)

The first of three explorations into microtonal tuning common in Middle Eastern music, as well as the start of a daring five-album run in 2017, Flying Microtonal Banana remains one of King Gizzard's most iconic albums, and a kickstarter for their most ambitious experimentation. Cemented by Lucas Harwood's groovy bass, Ethio-jazz inspired synths, and drums from Michael Cavanagh and former drummer Eric Moore mind-bogglingly alternating between the on- and off-beats, "Nuclear Fusion" is sci-fi krautrock at its finest. 

11. "The Bitter Boogie"
Paper Mâché Dream Balloon (2015)

Carrying the torch that Kenny-Smith's father Broderick Smith lit on Carson's "Boogie, Pt. 1," "The Bitter Boogie" — a truly groovy descriptor for cynicism — is a bluesy banger anchored by little more than two swinging piano notes, twangy acoustic guitar and, of course, tons of harmonica. Its second half ramps up in intensity as Kenny-Smith takes the lead with his soulful verses, reminding us of his strength as a unique and powerful vocalist.

10. "The River"
Quarters! (2015)

Water is a common motif across the King Gizzard catalog, and as its title suggests, "The River" is a sprawling odyssey that effortlessly swells and bends through 10 minutes of 5/4 and 4/4 lo-fi jazzy psych. With a bobbing, syncopated guitar melody mirroring Mackenzie's vocals in typical King Gizzard fashion, it drifts into some of their strongest riffing in the final two minutes. It's no wonder that hundreds of fans sport tattoos of the iconic green gator from the Jason Galea-directed music video.

9. "Mars for the Rich"
Infest the Rats' Nest (2019)

Perhaps in fewer years than anticipated, we'll be reminiscing over "Mars terraforming slowly / Earth has been deformed." There are few songwriters who tackle the climate crisis as forthrightly and passionately as Mackenzie, just as there are few modern thrash metal songs that sound as instantly timeless as "Mars for the Rich." A 12/8 time signature delivers the swing and impact of a sledgehammer before a Sleep-inspired bass solo fully sets it all aflame. 

8. "Boogieman Sam"
Fishing for Fishies (2019)

What would be a boogie blues album without a cheeky, White Zombie-esque reference to the much more frightening kind of boogieman? Between its Mellotron flourishes that sometimes sound like a harp — not the blues kind of harp, though this track has plenty of it — the word "boogie" repeated seemingly endlessly, and a staccato guitar solo launched with a feral screech, "Boogieman Sam" has all the bells and whistles to make it one of the most exciting and eclectic King Gizzard songs. Catch it live, and it may be interspersed with some classic blues covers.

7. "Crumbling Castle"
Polygondwanaland (2017)

"Crumbling Castle" is an epic of massive proportions. Opening in a slew of polyrhythms that create the dizzying effect of half a dozen songs being played at once, it twists like the winding road of a medieval pilgrimage before crumbling in on itself during its final minute of sludgy stoner metal. A major highlight is its intricate, technical riffing — another being when it all dissolves to shine light on Harwood's serpentine bassline that holds it all together.

6. "I'm in Your Mind" / "I'm Not in Your Mind" / "Cellophane" / "I'm in Your Mind Fuzz"
I'm in Your Mind Fuzz (2014)

Though split into sections, the first four pieces of I'm in Your Mind Fuzz's freewheeling garage rock form a seamless four-part suite, a real endurance test for the band's rhythm section. First quarter "I'm in Your Mind" sneers in defiance against mind control, careening into the "Miserlou"-on-acid instrumental "I'm Not in Your Mind." "Cellophane" comes off as a commercial break for 3D movies before closing the loop with "I'm in Your Mind Fuzz." King Gizzard may have become vastly more experimental and ambitious since, but no song distills their essence more precisely. 

5. "Hate Dancin'"
Changes (2022)

There's about one King Gizzard love song per every 10 depicting some sort of hell-sent fiendish beast, but when the gushing is of the emotional kind rather than of blood, it drips with surprising sweetness. Anchored around bobbing piano and mellow Wurlitzers, Mackenzie uses dancing as a metaphor for falling in love, but more so the foolishness of resisting it. Skittery drums and an anxious rising octave of piano chords skillfully mirror the head rush felt when your crush is close and you "feel like freakin' out from the waist down." Between the sing-song melody and confessions of "just kidding, ooh-ooh, I love it," it has the energy of giggling and twirling your hair while begging the question: doesn't it feel euphoric to drown in your emotions rather than stifle them? "No more caring about what other people think / Let 'em kick up a stink!" may as well be the King Gizzard ethos.

4. "Beginner's Luck"
Gumboot Soup (2017)

Everyone has heard a song for the first time and felt certain they've heard it before, and "Beginner's Luck" is just that. Its mellow opening verse is airy and intimate enough to be mistaken for a lost gem of '60s baroque pop, as Mackenzie leads listeners through a hazy scene of an anxious first-time casino gambler. Building up to a drum fill that sounds — in the best sense possible — like Cavanagh dropping his kit down the stairs, it explodes into sumptuous '70s prog rife with warm piano and flute. Lush poetic lyrics ("The king extends his hand, he looks into my palm / I don't know if he wants to shake it or cut it from my arm") could be applied as a metaphor for any kind of scenario where, if one isn't careful, they could lose everything. Beginner's luck shouldn't be a concern for King Gizzard, though — this is one of many times where they've done things just right.

3. "Iron Lung"
Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms, and Lava (2022)

Endlessly ascending and descending before careening on the edge of chaos, "Iron Lung" is the peak of jazzy, jammy King Gizzard. What begins as a murky, solemn depiction of life trapped inside an iron lung soon lifts off into swirls of flute and saxophone, guitars meandering along a sinuous path of menace. While most of King Gizzard's doom and gloom has a clear lighthearted undertone, this one feels truly despondent, almost like a figurative message of resilience when faced with feeling trapped. A heavy riff about halfway through drags it to hell and back as Kenny-Smith belts and screams with feral energy. It all may sound spontaneous, but there's clear calculation behind its madness. 

2. "Sleep Drifter"
Flying Microtonal Banana (2017)

It feels lazy to label "Sleep Drifter" as dreamy — yet no word more aptly describes its moonlit kosmische beauty. The song floats delicately in liminal space: between guitar frets in its microtonal melody, and somewhere along the spectrum of consciousness and slumber, where dreams and reality coexist in a blur. Mackenzie's voice is gentle and hushed, as if cautious not to awaken himself from his lucid dream of a lover nearby, despite actually being miles away. A false ending about two thirds through brings things back with a bit more impact, like resuming a good dream after waking up abruptly. Balancing airiness with edge is a difficult feat, one that seems almost too refined to be real on this ethereal daydream.

1. "The Dripping Tap"
Omnium Gatherum (2022)

"The Dripping Tap" is the quintessential King Gizzard song. Written during one of their first post-lockdown jam sessions, months of pent up energy culminates in an 18-minute epic that feels bigger than the whole sky. A crackly vinyl hiss and count-in from Cavanagh understatedly leads into its massive, impassioned chorus sang by Kenny-Smith. It's soulful with a bittersweet tinge, a bit of cosmic country behind the acceptance that God won't save humanity from our self-inflicted destruction. A sharp turn leads into a blissful head rush of everything that gives King Gizzard their signature sound: crashing cymbals; guitars that soar, harmonize, then battle each other; harmonica nestled between the layers; Mackenzie sounding as lighthearted and boyish as always, proclaiming our damnation with an occasional "woo!" in between. And, yes — there is a very long repeated segment. Its massiveness feels like a bold statement of confidence from a band who clearly know they can do many things well, the best of which is being assuredly themselves.

Tour Dates

Latest Coverage