King Krule today announces the release of his forthcoming album Man Alive! with his first ever self-directed video.
Following on from last year’s ‘Hey World!’ video in which Archy Marshall performed acoustic versions of four new songs, Man Alive! (set for release on 21 February 2020) will be the third King Krule titled studio album.
Archy Marshall’s long-time love of cinema seeps out in his first foray into directing, with a video for ‘(Don’t Let The Dragon) Draag On’ that pulls influences from Carl Theodor Dreyer’s classic The Passion of Joan of Arc while still creating a typically wry King Krule visual.
Archy Ivan Marshall has the world at his feet. After two feverishly received albums as King Krule, plus another low-key outing under his own name, this extraordinarily gifted 25-year-old from Peckham in South London adds further depth and substance to his oeuvre with another wondrous long-player called Man Alive!. It arrives packed full of his trademark sonic ambition and compositional skill, as well as the now-familiar corrosive lyricism and lurid social observation. Marshall has emerged as a pack leader amongst his peers, leading the charge in a fearless blurring of genre divisions, one minute seeming to drag the listener through the trashiest punk experience, the next ushering in a soundworld that’s apparently hi-tech and forward-looking.
Like any great artist on the rise, Archy’s life is moving fast. There’s a lot to catch up on, after 2017’s sprawling masterpiece, The Ooz, broke through amid Mercury Prize nominations and minds-blown media plaudits. Unlike that record, Man Alive! doesn’t aim to present any kind of narrative thread, or Brexit-era state-of-the-nation address, just a collection of snapshots and stories, artfully sequenced into a dazzlingly coherent whole.
This third King Krule album was written as a direct reaction to the non-stop energy of touring The Ooz, and then partly recorded at Shrunken Heads in Marshall’s native stamping ground of Nunhead, with ‘Ooz’ co-producer Dilip Harris. Midway through those sessions, however, Archy found out he was going to become a dad for the first time, and he decided to move up to the North West to be near the mother’s family, ready for the baby’s arrival.
“I should’ve had it all wrapped up before my daughter was born,” says Marshall today with a sheepish grin. Impending parenthood came at a felicitous moment for him, as he was beginning to feel trapped in South London’s suburban lifestyle of all-eclipsing drunkenness and depression, which existing fans will know was a recurring theme in his earlier music.
“It was just the easiness of it,” he reflects today. “There really is nothing else to do here, especially when it turns to winter. Everyone I know has jobs, whereas I’d sit on my arse all day sometimes not doing anything, then I’d go to the pub with them when they finished work. It became a bit habitual. Then, right in the middle of the record, this big change came in my life that I didn’t really comprehend initially. It was like, ‘Oh, I’d better get my shit together!’ To be honest, I was really glad to get away from all that so I could focus on more pressing matters – like keeping a child alive and stuff.”
The new album’s title, he explains, “is an exclamation, about the times we live in. Like, ‘Fucking hell, man!’” He stole the title from a CD that his uncle gave him back in 2013 with some of his uncle’s own music on it, and originally planned to use it for his last album.
“More and more,” he explains, “I’ve been put off by the intention of speaking about what’s going on in society as a black-and-white thing, or trying to get to the bottom of why we’re in this position. So the album is mostly made up of snapshots and observations. There are a lot of real-time-and-place moments, songs talking about walking through the park just over there and getting a head injury [don’t ask! – Ed.], then there are other tracks which are just simplicity, looking at one particular situation and reflecting on it as somehow being super-profound.”
Just as the lyrics are diverse in theme and purpose, so is the music: ‘Comet Face’ lopes along with irresistible unease like a wonky New Wave hit, and ‘Stoned Again’ packs all the inspired beatmongery of ’90s hip hop, while much of the record’s sparser second half recalls the lo-fi intimacy of Robert Wyatt’s ’80s solo work, or indeed the recordings of mass-murderer Charles Manson.
As the concluding ‘Please Complete Thee’ sails out on upliftingly twangsome slide guitar, you’d be forgiven for imagining that some of the more agonizing preceding numbers have served as a kind of therapy for their creator. “Oh yeah,” he freely admits, “once you’re able to discuss things and talk honestly, there is no better way than just shouting it out at a bunch of people. I was always empowered by lyricism and getting my aggression out in some way, or any kind of emotion. That has always been a process for me. This time I felt like I had gotten out of a dark place, and I was on a high. I appreciated the depression, and the low times I’d been through, but I also liked how I felt better in the here and now. So it was about reaching that new plateau.”
King Krule – Man Alive!
3. Stoned Again
4. Comet Face
5. The Dream
6. Perfecto Miserable
7. Alone, Omen 3
9. Airport Antenatal Airplane
10. (Don’t Let The Dragon) Draag On
11. Theme For The Cross
13. Energy Fleets
14. Please Complete Thee
King Krule – Man Alive! is out Friday 21 February
via XL Recordings / Remote Control.