King Krule – “Man Alive!” Album Review
British musician Archy Marshall, better known by his stage name King Krule released an album entitled “Man Alive!” an album which produces his most exhilarating, as well as his most disappointing moments of his career thus far.
Pinning down a style for King Krule is difficult. Storming on the scene in 2013 with his album “6 Feet Beneath the Moon,” Marshall weaved through indie rock, jazz, punk, as well as trip hop and hip hop. Songs such as “Easy Easy” and “Border Line” displayed a catchy yet stripped down sound. It was raw and rough around the edges, a sound all its own.
In 2017’s “The OOZ,” King Krule got darker. Songs like “Biscuit Town” and “Dum Surfer” producer a harsher sound compared to his first release. It also provided a wonderful platform for Marshall’s dark, depraved, depressive, and twisted view of the world. There was not as much optimism as displayed on “6 Feet Beneath the Moon,” and the pop appeal that creeped its way onto Marshall’s debut was nowhere to be seen.
Now, King Krule released “Man Alive!” and to start of the album Marshall displays his best work, and for a few tracks, the album is a strong contender for best of the year so far. “Man Alive!” opens with “Cellular,” a wonderful track about modern technology.
The beginning of the track, accompanied by a downtrodden and slow guitar riff, starts with a while of spinning electronic notes that sound like a whirl of phones dialing. Then King Krule adds a fantastic drum machine beat.
Overall, the drumming in “Man Alive!” is incredible. It’s hard hitting, fast, intense, and drives the album forward with an anxious and uneasy beat, it works very well with Marshall’s mostly dark and depressing lyrics.
On “Cellular,” the drums are very reminiscent of something from the album “Closer” by Joy Division. On the track, Marshall sings lyrics such as “there’s a French girl, on the television, she’s crying in the palm of my hand.” It’s a glimpse into Marshall’s strange but wonderful songwriting as well as his unique look on the world, and how technology makes us lose our connection to the world.
Following “Cellular” are “Supermarché” and “Stoned Again,” both incredible tracks. The incredible drumming continues, so does Marshall’s beautifully cryptic songwriting. The loose guitar strumming alongside the drums creates an incredibly tense sound. This is heightened by Marshall’s screaming in the chorus of “Supermarché and the bridge of “Stoned Again.” It would be overpowering, if it was not hidden behind the incredible instrumentals. The anger and raw emotion from Marshall is felt, but it does not burst any eardrums.
This musical bravado continues onto “Comet Face,” but after that, the album sinks completely. The unique energy and diversity on the beginning of “Man Alive!” gives way to a mostly depressive slog. Starting with “The Dream,” and continuing through the rest of the album, the sound turns from tense and exciting to soft, slow, and sad.
Sometimes this works, the two-song tandem of “Alone, Omen 3” and “Slinky” are sad and slow but interesting. There is a variety of instrumentation and, in the case of “Slinky,” an exciting crescendo featuring a whining saxophone and Marshall’s consistently compelling lyrics.
Despite these tracks, the second stage of the album is about as fun as having to console a friend over the phone after they got dumped two hours prior. Coincidentally, much of “Man Alive!” seems to revolve around the end of one of Marshall’s relationships.
This does not make for an overly interesting album in many parts. Marshall’s lyrics good, as they are throughout the album, he is quite poetic, but his delivery sounds like he’s singing while laying down in bed with his face buried in his pillow.
In tracks like “Perfecto Miserable” and “Airport Antenatal Airplane” see Marshall quietly and incoherently slurring his words. The rather lifeless guitar riffs and keyboards layered on top provide a stark contrast from what the start of this album was.
“Underclass” provides the final moment of solace before the closer “Please Complete Thee” ends the album on a miserable note. The industrial instrumentals do very little while Marshall’s lyrics are at their worst.
It is the musical equivalent of a desperate 2 a.m. paragraph long text to an ex-girlfriend; it is also the album’s low point.
In conclusion, “Man Alive!” is an incredibly inconsistent album. At points, this is King Krule’s most complete and most interesting set of work, at other points it is a boring and overemotional mess, with only a few tracks able save the latter half of the album from complete collapse.
In the future, King Krule should get back to the type of music done in tracks one through four of “Man Alive!” While depression can be a compelling topic, and slow music or minimalistic music is in no way bad, Marshall does not have a good grasp of it.
King Krule sounds best when the musical style and instrumentation is broad, and the sound is loud, chaotic, and a bit mad.
Reviewer’s Favorite Track: “Stoned Again”
Reviewer’s Least Favorite Track: “Please Complete Thee”
Jim Krueger is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.