King Krule’s music has always floated between a feeling of unsettling paranoia and soulful serenity. His 2017 masterpiece The Ooz captured that juxtaposition beautifully with a dense and instrumentally rich album that felt like it was meandering through the desolate landscapes of London. Since then, his partner Charlotte Patmore gave birth to a little girl, and Archy Marshall has kept busy on production duties for artists like Jadasea. The wait is officially over for King Krule’s new album. His third project under the King Krule name is called Man Alive! and represents a slight tonal and sonic shift from his previous works. At 14 tracks, it’s also his shortest album to date, sitting at 41 minutes. Upon first listen, Man Alive! sounded oddly fragmented. It lacked cohesion and the same type of flow that was present on his first two projects. The more I sat with it however, the more I felt the nuances in sound and paid attention to the lyrics, the more I warmed up to this change of direction.
The album starts off with “Cellular,” one of the lead singles. The electronic effects, combined with the booming guitar leads makes for a thunderous opening. King Krule’s vocals feel cold and distant as he reflects on his past relationships and guilt over how he left things with his ex. The saxophone leads that come in add a warmth to the track and end it off in an optimistic tone. “Supermarché” and “Stoned Again” bring a more aggressive energy to the album. The latter track sounds like King Krule’s losing his mind, with wild, unsettling vocals, menacing guitar leads and booming drums. “Comet Face” similarly brings a visceral energy to the album, lamenting about the lowest points of his live. From then on, the album changes its tone and sound slightly, bringing more ethereal, atmospheric instrumentation. It reminds me a lot of the jazz-inspired moments on The Ooz, with tracks like “Perfecto Miserable,” “Alone, Omen 3” and “(Don’t Let The Dragon) Draag On” bringing gorgeous and somewhat psychedelic guitar leads. The horn and wind section on “Theme for the Cross” are absolutely stunning. The piano leads and subtle electronic effects at the latter stages of the track add an optimistic tone to the sound. “Underclass” is my favourite track on the album. It’s a clear standout for me, not only for it’s smooth, colourful jazzy textures, but the profound and beautiful lyrics about finding that true love. “Under the underclass/ Deep in society’s hole/ That’s where I saw you, love” he sings. “Energy Fleets” and “Please Complete Thee” are two atmospheric cuts that are slower in pace and poetically introspective.
The album as a whole meanders from track to track beautifully, and the juxtaposition in sound between the more dynamic, angsty sound with the serene, ethereal quality to a lot of the tracks on the back end of the album is what makes this a great listen. While to me not as cohesive and memorable as The Ooz, Man Alive! deserves its props as a moody and atmospheric body of work that is also a great addition to his impressive discography. Listen to King Krule’s third studio album Man Alive! below via Spotify and don’t forget to support! Released via XL Recordings.