Release Date: Feb 21, 2020
Record label: True Panther Sounds
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
King Krule diehards might have been somewhat distressed upon hearing in early 2019 that their number one gutter misanthrope and his partner had become parents. A preview of Archy Marshall's third album under the alias was "Alone, Omen 3," a tender and empathetic ballad ("Soak it in, for the rain will pass in time") that got only a little fraught and haunted-roomful-of-mirrors near the end. Did the monarch suddenly have a heart where his ice box used to be? Rest assured, the song slumps into Man Alive! as a set-up for a tremulous and spindly number in which the protagonist howls about violent bloodshed in an alcohol-addled state.
Three years ago, Archy Marshall (aka King Krule) announced himself as one of this generation's most omnipresent and perceptive songwriters. On 2017's The Ooz, the then-23-year-old offered us a scuzzy, messy, caustic glimpse at his London-centric existence. The whole album clattered and meandered with the hyper intensity that so infuses and, in many ways, dictates what it is like to exist at the center of the UK's largest city.
The man behind King Krule's barbarian howl is a lover, not a fighter, but lean in close and the boundary gets foggy. The violence in Archy Marshall's music arises from a romantic pathology--one that Marshall, who sings love songs the way Johnny Rotten sang "Anarchy in the UK," knows intimately. "There's a love in me to kill good things," he once told an interviewer.
Krule's new record, Man Alive!, is a subterranean home-stay dirge that documents the change from the ennui of habitual inebriation in South London's young creative scene, to the domestic bliss he is experiencing - out of the capital - after the birth of his first child. The comparison with the aforementioned records ends with that subject matter, though; to delve any further into it would be misleading. Man Alive! is light on the cheery acceptance of fatherhood and heavy on the slump that apparently came before.
King Krule – Archy Marshall to his mates and his mom – stumbled onto the scene with 2013’s engaging, witty 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, which immediately set him apart from what anybody was doing, save for a few Bandcamp artists who’ve avoided the kind of mainstream attention Marshall’s achieved in the seven years since. His signature sound, a nocturnal blend of hip-hop, synthesizer sounds, jazzy punk and oddball vocalisation immediately brought to mind earlier experimentalists and genre-benders like Damon Albarn and Ian Dury and Sandinista-era The Clash. Songs like Easy, Easy and Out Getting Ribs made him a name you could drop, and his next record, the infinitely better The Ooz, made him a name you could shout about.
It's been a busy few years for Archy Marshall. Following the release of 2017 opus 'The Ooz', the third album under his King Krule moniker, the artist has become a father and moved away from his native London. 'Man Alive!' serves as a loose series of snapshots, with most of it written during his pre-fatherhood final throes in the capital. Opener 'Cellular' is a menacing statement of intent, finding the sounds of a rattling drum machine matching with haunting saxophone and Archy intoning "there's a television speaking to me".
Archy Marshall AKA King Krule, Edgar the Beatmaker, The Return of Pimp Shrimp, DJ JD Sports, can legitimately claim to be one of the UK's most influential artists. Aged 19, he paved the way for miserable men fond of jazz chords on 'Six Feet Beneath the Moon' and since then has put to use his considerable production and beatmaking chops. With 2017's 'The Ooz', a sprawling, despondent odyssey, he won new disciples.
The Lowdown: As King Krule, Archy Marshall made a name for himself as a creature born from from the dankest, dirtiest parts of south London; when he raged against the dark night of a breakup on 2017's revelatory The Ooz, you could almost hear the smoke billowing up from his chest alongside every crooning croak. Three years later, Marshall's daily life looks almost nothing like it did back then; since The Ooz, he's become a first-time father and left behind London for a family-focused life in Cheshire. All those changes left fans with plenty of questions ahead of the release of Marshall's newest album, Man Alive! Chief among them: isn't "domestically contented King Krule record" an oxymoron? (Buy: Tickets to Upcoming King Krule Shows) The Good: For all the talk about Marshall's new life as a country mouse, Man Alive! still bears the direct imprint of the big, grimy city: much of the album was recorded in London, and once again features the punch-drunk neo-noir sounds that co-producer Dilip Harris and saxophonist Ignacio Salvadores brought to The Ooz.