King Krule, aka Archy Marshall, released his third Krule album Man Alive! on February 21st. He played a gig in Bristol on the same day, presented by Rough Trade, which was teeming with nihilistic boys in carhartt and glasses, clutching their red stripes.
Archy strolled onstage to thunderous screams, over half an hour late. He did not acknowledge his audience, strumming his guitar with eyes lowered and back half turned. His eyes only raised after perhaps five minutes of playing, still maintaining a feeling of complete indifference as he gazed into the adoring crowd.
Old fan-favourites like ‘Lizard State’ and ‘Baby Blue’ were obviously included in the setlist. But the gig was significantly compromised of Man Alive! and its minimalist punk, a shift from his older, debut sound on Six Feet Beneath the Moon, an exquisite loose mix of guitar, lethargic hip hop and jazz.
The anguish of Man Alive! is undeniable, the first four songs feature distinct drums and ambient gloom, definitively heralding first wave post-punk. When performing songs like ‘Stoned Again’, Krule’s usual bassy moan was replaced by a violent howl as he almost screams ‘Yeah, she’s my sweet, my sweet and sour, my lemon honey’ and ‘I scratched so hard ‘cos I’m feeling fucking lucky / Boy, I’m feeling so lucky!’. Songs like ‘The Dream’, ‘Underclass’ and ‘Perfecto Miserable’ return to Krule’s classic gentle lullaby croon, the latter being an obvious love letter to his wife Charlotte Patmore.
Still, for the most part Krule’s live performance was full of irate fury and vague lulls that were overtaken by an intermittent cacophony of noise. Accessorised with a guitar slung round his neck, he clutched this to his chest. Sometimes strumming or descending into a frenzied solo, there was a noticeable series of songs when the guitar was just held, rather like a shield between him and the crowd.
Krule seemed to look down in almost-disdain on his audience, understandable given their insistence on moshing violently to far too many of his less punky songs. This was the less enjoyable aspect of the gig, I was plagued by a lanky twat that frequently kneed me in the back with glee.
Alongside his throaty roar, the gig was characterised by atmospheric vocal samples and warped effects, occasional heavy drums and saxophone interludes. Obviously, second album The OOZ featured too. Krule played ‘A Slide In (New Drugs)’ with a sustained chord progression and extra emphasis on the self-deprecating lyrics, as he bellows ‘I have no teeth, I’ve never done’. He wailed ‘the universe salutes, Lucifer cries / within heartbeats, you strum goodbye’ on the questioning title track ‘The Ooz’; tumbling into an extended saxophone solo as he calls ‘is anybody out there?’. Near the end, Krule sustained eye contact with the audience in an expressive vehement vulnerability, as he aggressively howls a repeated ‘you’re not alone’ on ‘Alone, Omen 3’.
A moody, turbulent performance of affection, fear, abandonment and fury that well sated his aesthetically fatalist fans, one turning to me and proclaiming ‘he just looks SO sad’. Though, there was perhaps a hint of a smile breaking through the indifference as Krule watched his saxophonist leap offstage and crowdsurf.
Originally published in Helicon magazine.