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      2. King Krule

        Man Alive!

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        King Krule diehards might have been somewhat distressed upon hearing in early 2019 that their number one gutter misanthrope and his partner had become parents. A preview of Archy Marshall's third album under the alias was "Alone, Omen 3," a tender and empathetic ballad ("Soak it in, for the rain will pass in time") that got only a little fraught and haunted-roomful-of-mirrors near the end. Did the monarch suddenly have a heart where his ice box used to be? Rest assured, the song slumps into Man Alive! as a set-up for a tremulous and spindly number in which the protagonist howls about violent bloodshed in an alcohol-addled state. Marshall duly stuffs his concise follow-up to The Ooz with the terror and negative liquid references, both literal and metaphorical, for which he is known. They even girdle it, starting with a numbed post-punk creeper in which Marshall drones about glancing at his phone to watch a girl cry, and signing off with a lashing, hollowed-out appeal of disconnectedness and dejection that contains the lyrics, "We don't have long 'til this earth is drowned." The Krule gaze is certainly more outward than before, though the most trenchant observations are mumbled. At times, Marshall sounds like he's recording a memo in the middle of a sleepless night, like when he speaks of "men that drowned holding their daughters, and weren't allowed refuge from the horrors." While nothing here has the agitated vigor of the previous LP's "Dum Surfer" or "Emergency Blimp," there are a couple oddball narrative ragers, and Marshall pumps laughing gas into both of them, somehow making "Tenth birthday, got a puppy/Now I'm back in the park/With the middle-class yobs/Tryin' to get lucky" sound side-splitting and brutal at once. Ignacio Salvadores' sax skronks on these two songs linger and rattle in the mind as much as Marshall's similarly no-wave-like guitar clangs. They add necessary color to Marshall's gray vision, peculiar and riveting as it is on its own. Listen close enough toward the album's end and you'll catch Salvadores playing in an almost mirthful fashion as Marshall asks, perhaps himself, "Why stop reading when the page is about to turn?" "Keep on Movin'" it ain't, but considering the context, it's a blinding ray of hope.

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