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King Krule

Electrowerkz, London, October 18

Mikael Gregorsky/NME
Photo: Mikael Gregorsky/NME
“Hello, London, we don’t play this town much,” deadpans Archy Marshall, aka Zoo Kid, aka King Krule. This north London haunt has recently become an outpost for the brightest-yet-darkest bands, with Savages playing last week and this young scamp today. Tonight, King Krule arrives to rapture usually reserved for monarchs having their tops lopped off, and with his pale skin and furtive glances he’s part gaunt 18th century shoeshine boy, part 21st century visionary, and quite possibly the lovechild of Steve Lamacq and Nicola Roberts.

The 18-year-old is an antidote to everything formulaic that might have worn you down this year. A Brit School prodigy, he’s everything you want in a musician. Urban yet poetic, gritty yet romantic, his words are kitchen-sink dramas manifested in song. When he says “I’m covered in blood, on the bed, and it’s fairly obscene” during ‘Bleak Bake’, it’s almost too much to handle.

Then there’s his stunning guitar work, which co-opts delicate jazz chords and places them in an unfamiliar setting – over dubstep and breakbeats – to produce music that bristles with invention. His style echoes Johnny Marr, though he’s not a rubbish Smiths imitator, more a clever magpie stealing shiny objects from everywhere, like on the bracing and skittering ‘A Lizard State’. If we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars, then Archie’s head is poking around the heavens for ideas.

On the otherwise dreamy waltz ‘Baby Blue’ he proves he’s not afraid of the odd Captain Beefheart moment by dropping in some chord sequences that make no sense, which is a product of an acute confidence in his own ability. And then there’s that voice: a soulful snarl that evokes devotion, because when he sings you know it’s the truth. This gig is a coronation, the acknowledgement that King Krule is a cut above, and everyone leaves knowing they’ve witnessed something special.

Jeremy Allen

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