Four for four: Archy Marshall comes out with yet another unique punk jazz project with the release of “Man Alive!” under the menacing moniker of King Krule. This stage name was inspired by the Nintendo character King K. Rool, an immense, humanoid crocodile acting as the main villain in “Donkey Kong Country” and a top-tier fighter in the “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” roster. Much like his namesake, King Krule is definitely a force to be reckoned with.
2017’s “The OOZ” is one of King Krule’s most critically-acclaimed albums to date. Infectiously energetic tracks like “Half Man Half Shark” and “Emergency Blimp” take listeners through a whirlwind of manic yearnings and coarse guitar riffs that redefine modern garage rock as we know it. On the other hand, slower dream pop tunes such as “La Lune” and “Midnight 01 (Deep Sea Diver)” offer a twist of introspective jazz. Even though these two sounds seem to juxtapose each other, the way the tracklist of “The OOZ” is spread out creates a unique blend of genre-bending music that certifies King Krule as a genuine creative.
The space between an artist’s album releases can sometimes feel like a lifetime. Fortunately, some creators take this time to fine-tune their sound and mature as both artists and people. For example, the four-year stretch between Frank Ocean’s “channel ORANGE” and “Blonde” resulted in a collective discography of songs that will go down in history as some of the best of this past decade. Luckily, King Krule’s three-year gap led to a 14-track triumph which shows that his best days are surely not behind him. However, his musical maturation has come with a price: everything has slowed down.
“Man Alive!” starts off with the thumping bass bop “Cellular.” With melancholy lyrics reminiscing about a past relationship that seems to have gone sour, King Krule’s trademark deep voice and South London vernacular are paired with a steadily low-key drum sequence and a series of faint pattering synth chords. It almost sounds as if The Replacements time traveled to the digital age.
Two tracks later comes “Stoned Again,” which serves to personify King Krule’s lifelong sense of anxiety and subsequent use of marijuana as a coping mechanism. With faint glimmers of grunge style vocal bellows and extremely distorted basslines, this song reclaims “The OOZ”-era energy that I almost thought he had left behind. Now that “Man Alive!” is currently the dominant Krule-istic style of the decade, his high-octane intentions are masked by sounding like a Turnstile song slowed down in both pitch and speed. This is a movement I can surely get behind.
My favorite two songs off this record are “Perfecto Miserable” and “Underclass.” The former takes King Krule’s audience on a solo joyride through the darkness of space with beautifully warped electric guitar vibratos and a spoken love letter to the mother of his infant son, while the latter takes these loving feelings for his girlfriend to a whole new level with lyrics about consuming infatuation and a rich, harmonious brass riff that accentuates the tenderness of his methodical guitar strumming.
Although “The OOZ” has not been dethroned as my favorite King Krule album, “Man Alive!” is a daring testament to his growth as a musician and as a human being. Maybe album number five will drip with more ooze whenever it is recorded, but right now all I can do is revel in the fact that I have another solid album to kick back and listen to.