King Krule lives under the permacloud on ‘Man Alive!’
Ryan Israel | Friday, February 28, 2020
The permacloud comes to South Bend in November, stays till March or April and brings with it gloom, melancholia and seasonal depression. The weather in London is surprisingly similar: cloudy, rainy and grey. These meteorological conditions affect our attitudes and dispositions, and, in turn, the art we consume and create.
Archie Marshall, who performs most often under the name King Krule, and his latest album, “Man Alive!” come from under the permacloud of London, and his music is closely attached to the feeling and aura of mid-winter weather.
The ominous gloom of the permacloud imbues nearly all of Marshall’s work as Krule. There’s the slow, subdued nature of early hit “Baby Blue” and the angst of “Easy Easy,” tunes which introduced the world to the then 18-year-old Marshall and garnered the attention of musical royalty (read: Beyoncé and Frank Ocean). On 2017’s “The OOZ,” the South Londoner moved further into the abstract of mood and sound. “Man Alive!” Marshall’s third full length project as Krule, merges his loud bitterness and quiet sullenness while showcasing the singer-songwriter’s mastery of a new wave style.
The front half of “Man Alive!” is full of aggressive, post-punk-inflected jazz rock. Marshall’s voice, often the first thing noticed by newcomers to his music, echoes as smokey verses and screamed choruses alike billow out of his lungs. On “Stoned Again,” he delivers an angry, near-rap verse as he laments the lowness of a high. His frustration and anger turns into shouts and screams, matched only by the introduction of a saxophone. Ignacio Salvadores, a frequent collaborator of Marshall, plays the brass instrument on numerous tracks from the album and largely contributes to the experimental sound of “Man Alive!” The sax rages alongside Marshall on the more loud, aggressive tracks and provides soft, musing melodies on the album’s smooth second half.
“Airport Antenatal Airplane” acts as a transition from side A to side B. On the back half of the album, things slow down and mellow out, moving from harsh electric guitar to slow, heavy basslines and atmospheric sounds. It’s not bedroom pop because of where it was made, but rather where one would listen to it. “(Don’t Let The Dragon) Draag On” is reminiscent of lying in a dark room on a comfy bed as a lulling, rhythmic guitar guides you deeper into the warmth. “I wrap myself in my duvet,” sings Marshall, using a soft, low tone barely above a mumble. “Theme for the Cross” features Salvadores’ saxophone at its finest. The sweet-sounding instrument plays over a subdued, ambient beat and creates an incredibly smooth jazz rock track.
“Man Alive!” finds Marshall at a pivotal time in the life of any young adult. In March of 2019, he became a father when his partner, photographer Charlotte Patmore, gave birth to their daughter Marina. Marshall wrestles with his return to the suburbs as a family man, finding himself back in the park — “On my 10th birthday, got a puppy / Now I’m back in the park with the middle class yobs tryna get lucky” — and the supermarket — “He’s creepin’ ‘round the aisles of / The supermarket mall.” Expressions of loneliness and isolation abound, with songs like “Perfecto Miserable” and “Alone, Omen 3” offering different sides of the same emotion. Television, a recurring symbol on the album, serves as a distraction and an anxiety, bringing the tragedies and troubles of the world into the home. Marshall’s more abstract verses which fill in the gaps are less concerned with telling a story than providing a feeling. The album’s lyrical themes, combined with the deep sonic compositions and varied moods, make “Man Alive!” the ideal soundtrack for mopey days and slow nights under the permacloud.
Artist: King Krule
Album: “Man Alive!”
Label: True Panther Sounds / Matador Records
Favorite tracks: “Stoned Again,” “(Don’t Let the Dragon) Draag On,” “Theme for the Cross”
If you like: Jazz, Frank Ocean, Connan Mockasin
Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5