Swapping the big smoke, for the smog of Stockport, King Krule’s third LP explores his new life as a father in the North of England. Man alive! May just be his most sonically stimulating album to date.
Back in 2013, Beyoncé’s fan base was surprised by a spontaneous link posted to her Beyhive Blog. Could it be, new music from Queen B? The majority of her supporters will have been stunned to see a fiery haired, chizzled young lad standing on tower blocks in an oversized suit armed with rollies. The music video to King Krule’s ‘Easy Easy’ may have been the last thing you would expect to see on Beyoncé’s blog, but (real name) Archy Marshall told MTV at the time that he was unsurprised of the pop star’s admiration for the single.
Kanye, Tyler, The Creator, Frank Ocean and Earl Sweatshirt are a few names on an endless list dying to collaborate with the Londoner; music may be in the archives, but none of these collaborations have ever surfaced.
Man Alive!, despite King Krule maintaining his trademark, guttural sound, feels like an optimistic LP. He explores themes of depression, sorrow and fear, but there is a clear overarching narrative of assurance and contempt, which has been absent from almost all of Marshall’s previous work.
Like his earlier LPs, Krule flexes a multiplicity of genres on his new album, complementing its metropolitan metaphors and vivid, neo-poetic storytelling. All this sonically accentuates the same concrete jungle we’ve been tiptoeing through with Zoo Kid for over a decade; this paradigm feels noticeably different on Man Alive!, potentially due to the musician’s new surroundings and stage of life.
After a slightly morbid opening, ‘Cellular’ juxtaposes the album’s trend towards optimism, ‘Stoned Again’ livens up the LP with Ignacio Salvadores schizophrenic jazz sax and restless punk rock percussion. Archie’s growl howls across the erratic production, as he reviews his teenage addiction to weed and the remedy of love helping to cope with its effects.
‘Comet Face’ adds to the thick smog that the record submerges itself in, using a bassline with a similar groove to ‘Visual’ off the Ooz. Whereas King Krule’s previous LP allowed him to experiment, Man Alive! commissions Marshall to confine his sound. The end of ‘Comet Face’ even uses a similar vocal sample to the beginning of ‘Ammi Ammi’ on A New Place 2 Drown.
‘Alone, Omen 3’ finds positivity in the theme of depression, allowing Krule to see beyond his internal feelings of loneliness. The single features a meticulous video. Directed by Jocelyn Anquetil, the visuals portray Marshall in two killer outfits, which represent the contrasting moods of the song. ‘Underclass’ is another deeply personal cut. Reflecting on the early intimacies of his relationship with Charlotte Patmore, the artist expresses his fear of the inherent demons that have ruined his love life before.
Penultimate tune 'Energy Fleets' is a woozy slow jam, utilising upbeat chord progressions and woozy synthesizers to fabricate a dreamy mood to finish the record. Its been a decade since Zoo Kid broke onto the radar of record companies. With new, more paternal responsibilities he seems to have perfected a completely uncompromising sound, one that has always been intrinsic to him, but is now completely in a league of its own.