King Gizzard, AstroTurf, and John Wesley!

by Kerry Tankard.

Let me invite you to peer, quickly, into the Gizzverse. This is the realm, theoretical and experiential, inhabited by invested fans of the Australian band King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. In 2022 they celebrated 10 years together and released 5 records in one year, for the second time! Their last offering of 2022 was the album Change, featuring 7 tracks which were initially birthed 5 years before. The band realised they did not have the musical capacity to complete the album then, but 5 years of growth finally enabled them to do it. The whole album is an experiment in music, each song structured around two chords and scales, D and F#. I am not sure if by now you are bemused, disengaged, or intrigued, but please hang in there.

AstroTurf[i] is the third track on Change and is about, well, AstroTurf! It is an environmental lament. The band have taken increasingly seriously the environmental crisis we find ourselves in. Individual tracks on albums, multiple tracks on their 2019 album, Infest the Rats Nest, explore environmental change and crisis, and it does not end there. They regularly press records on recycled material; have dispensed with shrink wrap covers for their albums, in favour of carboard envelopes and in one case reclaimed denim. They were awarded a £20,000 prize (which they donated to the environmental charity The Wilderness Society) for the song and video of If Not Now, Then When?[ii], (from the album L.W.). A persistent refrain in that song wonders what it will take to change our behaviour. The song AstroTurf is another of their environmental protests. It portrays the mentality where control and the pursuit of an artificial (im)perfection overwhelms natural beauty, and to counter this it offers the lament of butterflies.

AstroTurf, the product, appears to solve the intrusions of the natural world for the human speaking in the song:

Everything’s dead here
Covered with plastic
Everything’s fluoro
Evergreen matter. . .

When it don’t matter
Everything’s better
Throw-away plates are
Better for business
Everything’s easy
Better for the earth is AstroTurf. . .

Suitable texture, suitable colour
Miniature forest, better than nature
Make me feel better knowing I won’t go
Out on my lawn and see an animal
Everything’s sterile, even infertile
Proud of my monster, never been straighter. . .

But at the same time creation is given a voice, a lamenting voice in the butterflies:

Six butterflies fluttered by
Looked horrified
“I just hatched from chrysalis
I’ve only hours, . . .
And this is where I will die
Heart-breaking way to end
I will cry on AstroTurf”

This is not a direct dialogue between the parties, but two monologues. The voice of power mistaking domination for dominion, and control for beauty; the voice of vulnerability seeing beauty in the created cycle of life and in the natural order of being.

The persistence of some human beings to dominate creation, to eradicate natural beauty in favour of artificial (im)perfection, is wanton and devastating. Our arrogance is such that we can presume the only voice we will listen to is our own, but King Gizzard pose an alternative voice and invite us, through song, to listen in. Convenience and control define some of our ways of relating to the world and the response is the sigh of creation (Romans 8.22). This is what Pope Francis highlighted at the beginning of Laudato Si’: ‘This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. . .This is why the earth herself . . . “groans in travail”’.[iii]

What I think the song does is elevate the voice we don’t hear, the groan of creation. I am not saying I believe human beings and butterflies are equal, or the same. Human beings are uniquely “capable of God”.[iv]  They are, for me, created in the image of God. In the Wesleyan tradition, they have been given the natural, moral, and political image of God to serve God’s purpose for all creation.[v] All life participates in God, but human beings have a greater ability to enjoy or frustrate the relationship than any other form of life. That distinct place we have is not one that should cause us to ignore God’s voice, grace, and presence, as it is mediated in other parts of creation.

For John Wesley, the political image of God in us is significant for the whole of creation, because it relates to our call to be for God, in our being for the world. In his sermon The Great Deliverance he writes of how humanity ‘was God’s vicegerent upon earth . . . all the blessings of God flowed through [them] to the inferior creatures. [Humanity] was the channel of conveyance between [their] Creator and the whole brute creation’.[vi] There is an intention for humanity to act for creation. It is a purpose and call to live for creation in such a way that we tend it with the Divine intent, that we act for it in a way consistent with God’s love. It is a call to listen to the lament of creation in the songs of butterflies and abandon AstroTurf and all it symbolises.


[i] Michael Cavanagh & Stuart Mackenzie, AstroTurf, from the album Change. The whole song can be found here: https://genius.com/King-gizzard-and-the-lizard-wizard-astroturf-lyrics

[ii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntbNRUycbD4

[iii] Laudato Si’: 2

[iv] Sermon 60: “The General Deliverance”, Works: 2:441.

[v] The natural and political image are inferred by John Wesley’s opening comments in “Salvation by Faith”, Works, 1:117-118 and this threefold image is outlined more completely in Sermon 45: “The New Birth” Works 2:188ff.

[vi] Sermon 60: “The General Deliverance”, Works 2:440

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