Album Review: King Krule, “6 Feet Under The Moon”

(Originally written for Reverb1)

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This weekend, King Krule, aka London’s Archy Marshall, will drop his debut LP on his 19th birthday. That’s impressive in itself, but what’s really crazy is it’ll mark Marshall’s 11th year as a musician. He started recording when he was just eight, an age when most of kids are playing video games and trading boogers.

While those early cuts may have just been riffs on “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” Marshall’s come a long way since then.

“6 Feet Under The Moon” culls from his decade-plus songwriting tenure—about a third of it consists of refurbished tracks from a 2010 EP he released under his Zoo Kid project. But the songs are anything but juvenile. First off, from his thick London accent and snarling baritone, you’d think he was twice his age. It’s the voice of a roughneck, some career criminal bouncing indignant epithets off the walls of his cell—not an 18-year-old fresh out of art school.

Then there’s the instrumentation. The spare guitars, bass and booming drums that drive the album all feel menacing thanks to heavy doses of reverb and delay. From the first grumbles of “Easy, Easy” through the last notes of “Bathed In Grey,” the whole thing sounds like it was recorded a mile into a dank cave, with Marshall as its lone inhabitant.

Stylistically, few songs follow your traditional pop song structure, favoring free-flowing jazz poetry instead. Rhythmic and lyrical riffs deviate and about-face with little notice. The anthemic “Easy Easy” sounds the part of a radio single, but even its swelling would-be chorus is a one-off, cast aside for a string of quotidian reflections. “Borderline” almost has a proper chorus, but pulls a switcheroo, subbing “The soul chokes” for “The soul floats” and tacitly flipping the script in the process. The tides turn mid-verse on “Neptune Estate,”  just as Marshall does on a lover: “I wanna be with you / I wanna be used” upends into “I hope you feel used / and cope the way you do / It should conjure up abuse.”

“6 Feet” isn’t, as you may have guessed, a particularly light album. When he’s not quoting a macabre Auden poem, (“Ocean Bed”) Marshall’s cursing his godlessness (“Has This Hit”) and recounting the sweet release of his suicide (“Cementality”). “Lizard State” and “Klockodeal” have swinging, even danceable rhythms, but even they are in contrast to their own grim ideas.

If you’re up for feeling down, King Krule’s “6 Feet Under The Moon” is a fascinating and deceptively nuanced listen. Like Tyler, The Creator, it’s easy to chalk Marshall’s tortured imagery up to adolescent angst—which springs up in the occasionally melodramatic, heartbroken lyric (“William, Here I Come”)—but Marshall’s too deft a songwriter to discredit so easily. Besides, if this really is this generation’s “emo” music, they’re a hell of a lot better off than most of us were.

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