Release Date: Jan 25, 2019
Record label: Merge
The portrait of Mike Krol that graces the cover of his fourth album, Power Chords, could pass for a stock photo of any musician noodling alone on the guitar in a bedroom. Except Krol is sporting a black eye, a fat lip, and bloodied fingers. After listening to the record, you may be amazed he emerged with just a few bumps and bruises. Power Chords is among the most visceral and violent documents of heartache, disappointment, and sleepless nights in recent rock memory.
Fuzzy garage rock has rarely contained this much wistful heartache. The previous album from Los Angeles-based musician Mike Krol, 2015's Turkey, clocked in at just 18 minutes, but packed in a year's worth of rambunctious potency. His new record, Power Chords, clocking it at nearly double the length of its predecessor, feels almost indulgent in comparison, but with its added running time comes a bit more thematic focus.
Most of the garage-punk acts that have emerged in the wake of Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees in the 2010s have been bands with no small amount of studied cool lurking behind their sweaty energy. Mike Krol is a vital exception to this rule; Krol is far too concerned with pumping out his fuzzy, no-frills, hook-infused rock and laying his heart out for all to see to have much truck with being cool. And that's a large part of what makes his music work so well.
Mike Krol makes tight, grimy garage rock that sounds as panicked as it does informed. Krol's latest full-length album, Power Chords, is appropriately titled— 11 ravenous pop songs that sound like they were thrown through a wood chipper and then stepped on with metal cleats. In the process, Power Chords manages to overcome a tricky, oftentimes colorless trope of 21st century garage-rock revisionists: sounding monotonous.
There's always going to be a need for what Mike Krol does: punchy garage punk that feeds on distortion and utter petulance. But there has to be distinction. His first album, I Hate Jazz, was released a year after Jay Reatard's tragic death and seemed like it could be the making of a new underground star, provided he could sculpt his sound a bit. That and sophomore album, Trust Fund felt like dress rehearsals for his third, Turkey.
No one can accuse Mike Krol of not calling it like it is. Power Chords, the Los Angeles garage rockers' flared-up return, signifies a crucial stage in his career despite falling into familiar patterns. Having enjoyed some modest success after his debut with Merge in 2015, Turkey, Krol is now at that phase where his ramshackle songs progress into a more polished, hyper-catchy territory.