With the release of their first four albums, The Murlocs — King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s Ambrose Kenny-Smith (vocals, guitar, harmonica) and Cook Craig (bass) along with ORB’s Cal Shortal (guitar) and Crepes‘ and Beans’ Matt Blach (drums) and Tim Karmouche (keys)— firmly established a reputation for crafting fuzzy and distorted psychedelic blues, which they supported as an opener for the likes of Gary Clark, Jr., Mac DeMarco, Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, Pixies, Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks, Wavves and of course, Kenny-Smith’s and Craig’s primary gig, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard — and as a headlining act, as well.
Recorded at Button Pushers Studio, last year’s Tim Dunn-produced, 11-song Bittersweet Demons found the band lovingly reflecting on the people, who have left a profound impact on their lives — the saviors, the hell raisers and other assorted and mystifying and complex characters they’ve come across. While being among the most personal and complex batch of material they’ve written in their growing catalog, the album saw the band bouncing between and around sun-blasted pop, blues punk and wide-eyed psychedelia.
The Murlocs’ sixth album Rapscallion is slated for a September 16, 2022 release through ATO Records. Self-produced by the band during the early stages of the pandemic, Rapscallion‘s 12 songs were recorded in the home studios of the band’s Kenny-Smith, Shortal, Blach, Cook Craig and Karmouche. Conceived and written as a coming-of-age novel in album form, the album’s material is partly inspired by Kenny-Smith’s adolescence as a nomadic skate kid. The album’s world is wild and squalid, populated by an outrageous cast of misfits — teenage vagabonds, small-time criminals, junkyard dwellers and truck-stop transients among others. The end result is an album that thematically — and narratively — is stepped in danger, delirium and wide-eyed romanticism of youth.
Sonically, Rapscallion is reportedly a marked departure from Bittersweet Demons‘ garage rock leanings, with the album’s material featuring strains of stoner metal and post punk. And while darker and more formidable, the album’s songs are still fueled by the same freewheeling energy they’ve brought to the stage.
Last month, I wrote about Rapscallion‘s first single, “Virgin Criminal,” a decidedly post-punk song centered around buzzing and angular guitar attack, a forceful motorik groove, Kenny-Smith’s punchy and breathless delivery paired with the band’s unerring knack for rousingly anthemic hooks. And at its core is a tale of an unnamed protagonist, who describes his first crime, an ill-fated convenience store robbery, which ends in murder — and the wild thrill the narrator gets from being an outlaw.
“Compos Mentis,” Rapscallion‘s second and latest single is a slow-burning and pensive ballad featuring fuzzy and distorted guitars, twinkling keys and a motorik-like groove paired Kenny-Smith’s imitable delivery. While seeing the band exploring a more contemplative — and perhaps even softer — side, “Compos Mentis,” asks a far deeper, far more vexing question: Are we in control of our own minds?
“After a long day of truck stop fights, hitchhiking and getting kicked off trains, our beloved rapscallion protagonist decides to spend the night in an abandoned junkyard,” The Murlocs’ Ambrose Kenny-Smith told the folks at Flood. “Finding peace within the garbage that surrounds him, he begins to question his purpose in life and whether or not he’s in control of his own mind.”
Created by Guy Tyzack, the accompanying video for “Compos Mentis” follows a dirty, Oscar the Grouch-like Kenny-Smith wandering around an abandoned suburban factory and a junkyard. He comes across four garbage bags, which oddly enough contain his equally dirty bandmates. It’s surreal and almost childlike fantasy of being a filthy, n’er-do-well kid forever.