In February of 2020, the world saw the return of King Krule with his fourth studio album, Man Alive!. King Krule, aka Archy Marshall, has come a long way from his debut releases under the alias “Zoo Kid” that was put on Bandcamp over a decade ago. Man Alive! is an uplifting successor to Marshall’s 2017 critically acclaimed album, The Ooz. Both albums are full of genre-bending tracks, combining jazz, electronic music, post-punk, and hip hop- which is a staple of Marshall’s music.
In the period between The Ooz and Man Alive! a whole lot has happened in the life of 25-year-old Marshall. He moved out of the urban South London to a quieter home in rural Lancashire with his partner and photographer Charlotte Patmore. The two then had their first child, Marina Marshall. The anticipation of having a child plays a strong role in the context of the album, as Marshall reflects on the nature of South London before settling down as a father.
Proceeding the release of Man Alive! Marshall and Patmore released the short film Hey World! which features stripped-down versions of the songs “Perfecto Miserable”, “Energy Fleets”, “(Don’t Let the Dragon) Draag On”, and “Alone, Omen 3”. His fans were then excited to be able to listen to the studio versions of these songs that were suspected to be on the album.
It is hard to pinpoint exactly what Marshall is trying to convey in Man Alive! and critics have been interpreting it in very drastic ways, as seen on an article of King Krule’s merch shown below, where two reviewers from The Guardian had two very different takes:
Marshall draws inspiration from many facets of everyday life, which is seen in songs such as “Supermarche” which is about overhearing conversations in supermarkets, or in “(Don’t Let the Dragon) Draag On”, which is named after an episode of the cartoon “Adventure Time”, which Marshall would watch on his days off during tour. Similarly, with The Ooz, Marshall also draws inspiration from saxophonist Ignacio Salvadores, who sings back-up vocals and plays saxophone on many tracks on the album. Politics, love, loss, and drug use are common themes that present themselves on the album that are important in understanding the landscape of the world that Marshall is painting for his listeners.
Man Alive! starts with post-punk inspired tracks such as the energetic “Stoned Again” and “Comet Face” and begins to fade off over time into softer, minimalist songs such as album-standouts “Energy Fleets” and “Perfecto Miserable”. On tracks such as “(Don’t Let the Dragon) Draag On” and “Airport Antenatal Airplane”, Marshall’s use of hip-hop inspired beats emerge, similar in vain to his electronic project A New Place to Drown. This spectrum presented in Man Alive! shows a dichotomy between the busy landscape of city life and the everyday loneliness that Marshall feels. On “Perfecto Miserable”, Marshall croons “When I’m left alone, it’s so damaging” as he begins to sing about a string of lonely nights that have come upon him. In a time where isolation is a present theme in the lives of many during quarantine and stay-at-home orders, these themes of isolation resonate.
Overall, Man Alive! is a wonderful listen for new and old King Krule fans alike and is painting a promising picture for the future of Archy Marshall’s music.
Check out the album here: