While the Gizz might be gearing up for another rinse around the tub in April, you don’t have to wait that long for some harp-heckled weirdness outta OZ. Top flight Gizzard offshoot The Murlocs are back with their fourth LP and a more toughened and toned sound than they’ve displayed to date. Led by the sinewy swagger of Ambrose Kenny-Smith and the nimble bass of Cook Craig, they’ve always represented a more soul-drenched side of the equation, turning down the psychedelic splatter that hangs over their ludicrously monikered day job and doing the dirty work of making bodies move to the blues. That soul-glo is even more present on Manic Candid Episode as the band grinds out white-boy hip shakers that stick to the floor with sweat and tears. They’d always been able to hit that manic high, though, what’s interesting here is how tender Kenny-Smith lets himself get and how vulnerability really lends itself a new dimensions to the band’s equation.
The standout single “Comfort Zone” takes a lone-spotlight piano approach to ‘70s songwriting, jumping off from an Elton show-closer and giving it a twist through the band’s own rose gold filter. They continue the buttered slide through more tender territory on “Catch 22” and “Samsara Maya,” but much as they might want to temper, the twinkle in Amrose’s eye can’t help but lead them back to the fire eventually. Those harmonica hijinks return for “What If?,” “Withstand” and the title track to, admittedly, great effect. Its good to see them take the temperature down a few degrees, but its hard to argue that when they aim to singe, they leave an impression. This is the most varied and versed the band has sounded in a long time, feeling like this is the moment when they go from being a sidetrack diversion to headliners in their own right.
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