February 21st | SWX
Photos: Naomi Williams
On the day of the release of his third full-length album under the moniker King Krule, Archy Marshall demonstrated at SWX why he’s one of the most interesting and provocative musicians right now.
The album released that night, Man Alive!, further digs into the insomnia-laced alternative rock that feels more jazz-influenced and yet still dark and unsettling. Speaking openly about his troubles with mental health growing up, Marshall’s music is the incarnation of raw emotion.
His striking live arrangements differ greatly between that of his albums. On each album, there is a malaise from a sleepless night the night before recording, that gives each track softer edge, like you were listening to it through the haze of accidentally taking too much extra-strength, evening cold medicine.
From his second album, The Ooz, ‘A Slide In (New Drugs)’ and the breakout single ‘Dum Surfer’ poked fun at external perceptions and became anthems for the fan base in all the traditional ways of youthful defiance. It’s not simply shouting into the void, however, rather each element is thoroughly constructed and considered.
The live performance was raw and punk, with Marshall spiking midway through the set and his supporting musician on saxophone flailing across stage like a member of an evangelical religion; at the same time, the experience of touring multiple albums has refined these outbursts, to enhance the ordered chaos and not derail the performance.
Marshall’s unique bass-heavy and narcotised vocals make me ask the same questions as when I listen to Bob Dylan, ‘Is he a good singer or does the profundity of this music make me overlook bad singing?’ The marriage between his voice and lyrics are perfect, both recorded and live, regardless of the answer.
There isn’t a doubt that if anything about King Krule or their performance was more traditionally ‘rock’ or alternative, it would dramatically reduce their importance and value with their overall impact. In a tumultuous time, Marshall’s records represent disenchantment and the anthem of the disenfranchised youth who are told that there is no longer a reason to care because everything has already fallen apart. To the sold-out crowd at SWX, King Krule unleashed the passion and defiance of a new kind of youth rebellion and expression by actualising and reinforcing lyrics like, “If you’re going through hell/Just keep on going”.
It’s easy to draw comparison to alternative icons Sonic Youth or Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground or more recent experimental rock groups, but comparing a musician to another, more famous musician of the past is insulting. Surely to say that a band sounds like Pink Floyd, is only a compliment to a Pink Floyd cover band? However, King Krule succeeds in rejecting both the concept of ‘genre’ and the all-too-easy label of ‘genre-defying’ but creating music and performance that is evocative, accessible and yet out of reach of labels making it truly groundbreaking.
See the video for ‘Cellular’ here: