“Another disappointed soul / Well I tried, I tried to keep it in control…”
No matter how hopeless his lyrics are, and no matter how much he cries through his vocals, rapper/punk jazz artist Archy Marshall — or King Krule, as he is more famously known — provided the audience with an ironic sense of joy and feeling of freedom with his blunt and often self-deprecating tracks at the Fillmore this past Tuesday.
It’s a little unsettling, because nobody imagines jumping up and down to a song like “Rock Bottom,” where King Krule gives in to despair and lets himself “descend into shame,” even though the melodic track is deceivingly upbeat. Even in the single’s music video, King Krule sings to a crowd of one lonely, passed-out drunk man. Nor would anyone ecstatically sing, “My sandpaper sigh engraves a line / Into the rust of your tongue” in front of a crowd of strangers.
And yet, people did jump up and down, the floor rhythmically bouncing beneath them. And as King Krule bellowed out song after song, the crowd happily sang his despondent lyrics.
It’s as if seeing Marshall live provided a much-needed service of emotional catharsis.
The audience was, as expected, treated to King Krule’s modest discography of despair and sentimentality, but they were also exposed to takes on 6 Feet Beneath the Moon or The Ooz that had been imbued with completely different emotional tones.
Rather than suppressing the sound of the guitar or muffling the lyrical confessions as he originally does in some of his songs, King Krule and his live band shout and play triumphantly. King Krule knows there’s nowhere to hide on a stage, and it would have been difficult to distance his voice with the engineered echo and static effect you might hear on the studio recording of “La Lune.”
So instead, he effectively resorts to his distinctive shakey and grunge-like baritone, but with an expanded self-assurance — dialing up the volume to confess, “Brave waves bathe the eye / Well I crave ways to dry,” better resonating with the realization he shared with Rai Radio 2 that “the easiest way to try to get a girl is if I actually started to speak about my problems with girls and my own confidence issues with girls.”
Backing this energy up, bassist James Wilson grabs the neck of his instrument and swings it up and down to every hard-hitting beat of “Half Man Half Shark.” He turns to someone offstage and shakes his finger up clearly demanding, “I want it fucking louder.”
Saxophonist John Keek would then contribute a solo to “Baby Blue” — one that unfortunately can’t be found on 6 Feet Beneath the Moon.
And drummer George Bass transforms every heartbeat on the studio version of “Midnight 01 (Deep Sea Diver)” into a pounding sensation with every strike of his drums.
Together, each of King Krule’s songs carried a refreshing confidence, which coaxed the audience into proud vulnerability and sensitivity when they echo his lyrics that touch upon his no longer private experiences of isolation.
Many might originally find themselves listening to King Krule when they’re alone, but on that day, everyone brought their own miseries, baggage and problems under one roof — now all, at least, happily alone together.
No garish backdrops or LED screens. No fog machines, though perhaps those are now essentially superfluous and redundant, since they’ve been replaced with those new cannabis-scented ones. And laser lights are simply unnecessary for a show like this. It was just King Krule’s raw voice and the band’s instrumental talents being utilized at their maximum ability.
At this point, admirers of King Krule can only optimistically hope that he receives a little bit of reconciliation and catharsis through his own performances.
He may have felt like an outcast growing up as a homeschooled child with parents at risk of being imprisoned, but Archy Marshall has evidently found people who are still willing to accept him and respond with affection when he asks, “Is anybody out there?”
Contact Lloyd Lee at [email protected].