A debut that captures the atmosphere of contemporary London in all its bleak and lonely glory
It’s hard to be a saint in the city. These days, it’s hard just to get by. There’s a disillusioned generation growing up under austerity in the UK, with slim job prospects but fat debts. It’s easy to be angry and easier to be sad. What’s tough is finding the words to talk about it.
King Krule, born Archy Marshall and once called Zoo Kid, has something to say. He’s still a teenager, due to turn 19 as this debut LP is released, but his voice is worth listening to.
In a literal sense, because it’s strange and raw, full of gravel and tortured, distended estuary vowels, but also because on ‘6 Feet Beneath The Moon’ he’s produced a self-portrait that captures the atmosphere of contemporary London better than anyone else, except maybe Burial, has managed in recent years. To paint his hometown he’s lifted from dub, garage and singer-songwriters such as Jamie T, but the biggest debt is to jazz. The result is so close to home you can taste the lager and smell the skunk.
He’s hassled by police from the off on ‘Easy Easy’, but what’s really getting him down is the lack of an escape route. There’s no future in England’s dreaming: “When your dead end job/Has been eating away your life/You feel little inside/But trouble and strife”. Things get so rough he even reaches for a Churchill quotation: “If you’re going through hell/Just keep going”.
The weight of the world weighs heavy on young Archy’s shoulders. On ‘Border Line’ he describes his body merging into “the deep cruel sea”, but his soul floats above it, like Jean-Dominique Bauby’s imagination in The Diving Bell And The Butterfly. The image of Marshall being submerged, or finding himself in “a pool of filth” comes up again and again. It returns later on the outstanding ‘Out Getting Ribs’, which cribs its title from a work by Jean Michel Basquiat, the neo-expressionist artist whom Jay Z repeatedly references on ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’.
It’s obvious that Marshall isn’t afraid to wallow in sorrow. Songs routinely find him searching the sky for meaning, wracked by doubt or crooning for a lost love. It’s a welcome change of pace when ‘A Lizard State’ picks up the tempo. Backed by horns, Marshall adopts a Rat Pack swagger and ramps up the self-confidence as he pleads with a lover to do what he tells her to. He conjures something of Nick Cave’s ‘Stagger Lee’ menace when he threatens: “Girl I’ll tear you apart/From the inside to the out”.
There are few smiles cracked on an album that’s shot through with the loneliness of the night bus home. But this is a record in the true sense of the word: a document of a certain time and place, an emotional account of a cruel, Krule world.
Kevin EG Perry