Nick Triani falls for King Krule’s off-kilter charms and finds his new album The OOZ a rewarding experience you need to live with.
The OOZ is ushered in by an elastic sound – guitar on loop most likely. The groove is laidback. Main protagonist Archy Ivan Marshall (aka King Krule) manages to rhyme motorola with footballer Gianfranco Zola. Inner city boredom has never sounded this louche – at least since I heard ‘Ghost Town’ by The Specials. ‘Biscuit Town’ (a slang term for Marshall’s local Bermondsey) certainly brings us the same disjointed idea of repetition. It’s a marvelous feat The OOZ manages, sounding both comatose and snottily indignant at the same time. That indignation is ultimately what defines King Krule and separates him from his peers.
Lost in the blue
The OOZ gives us a snapshot of youthful dissidence and oodles of attitude, a UK 2017 view seen through the eyes of an early 20s white male. Do we need much more of this view you might ask? This album is a very English construct – but there is much here for all. The OOZ has a downer world view, a hazy street perspective whilst being dreamily personal. Surely those older practitioners of austerity Britain the Sleaford Mods has this kind of thing down pat? Although moulded from the same terrain, Marshall’s world is far more mysterious, yet drawn to the same mundane. The OOZ offers lyrics filled with tannoys, late night platforms, planets circling, solvents, depressive talk, many references (often cryptic) to his first album Six Feet Under The Moon (more planets), nautical themes and being submerged, pools, prescribed medication, dissociation, space cadets, Lucifer, city at night – low self-esteem dominates and that dreaded sense of being discarded.
low self-esteem dominates and that dreaded sense of being discarded
But this ultimately feels like a breakup album. Marshall feeling lost is the recurring theme. ‘I wish I was people’ he proclaims at one point. This ‘separation’ has hit him hard. This verse from the Billie Holliday quoting cut ‘Lonely Blue’ (a prominent color for The OOZ), pretty much gives you a flavour of the albums talk:
“In a ballad, we touch
‘Cause our skulls will mush
So please don’t let go of our kingdom of trash
I got high off butane, I was born amidst a wrath
That boy he’s just a puke stain
That girl she made me mutate”
To counter the personal gloom at the heart of The OOZ, Marshall puts forward rich, skewered and varied musical positions, somewhere between Beckian lo-fi, James Chance sax, Terry Hall elegance, Nina Simone melancholy, Tricky‘s council estate vibes and a Captain Beefheart appetite for indulgence. You are entering an often uncomfortable world, but Marshall tempers this with abstract moments of mellowness, that keep you drawn in.
I can get so much satisfaction
In this age of instant access, instant revelation, and fuck – everything being an instant boon, it’s so rare to find a record where you have to peel back the layers and dive in to discover the charms. This is why The OOZ has struck such a personal note with me. I for one am tired of albums tailor-made for the streaming age. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a lean, mean 30-35 minute blast of pop perfection, but alternatively at this time in 2017, it’s actually refreshing to listen to an album that doesn’t present itself in one listen – an album that you might have to invest some time with and still be baffled by what you’ve just been listening too.
it’s actually refreshing to listen to an album that doesn’t present itself in one listen – an album that you might have to invest some time with and still be baffled by what you’ve just been listening too
Right now, I personally can’t handle a lot of the gleeful decadence that pop music is shoving in my face. There is a disconnect for me. It’s something more established pop acts seem to be at arm’s length from. It’s in the air, but pop’s magisterial arrogance sits badly with what’s going down right now. We’ve also reached a time in popular music where indulgence can be celebrated as an alternative to the corporate focus of that aspirational prefect three minutes – or in the case of streaming – the initial 30 seconds – don’t bore us get us to the chorus to the max. Is this myopic stance to be celebrated? Or should we expect the unexpected sometimes?
This is where Marshall and The OOZ really pays off. Yes, the bass tones could be familiar to fans of early trip hop or RZA‘s more sparse productions, but it’s the other elements that mix in with that rounded bass tone that brings so much to the album. Guitars are all over the place, jazzy and indie-like in equal measure. They are messy, almost an afterthought, but they bring much to the overall sound – with guitar tones tuned down to muffled.
Minimal rhythms to full-on drums sets and keyboards from an array of sources set the foundations. The sax that is a constant presence, wandering in and out of songs, free and unstructured but adding a doleful voice to proceedings, that so often matches Marshall’s own mogadon tone. Yet, there is something searching in Krule’s croon, which brings into sharp focus his own dilemma and disenfranchised world view. It’s the sound of addicted and medicated youth. It’s the tone of being lost and yearning. It’s the state we’re/he’s in.
It’s the sound of addicted and medicated youth. It’s the tone of being lost and yearning. It’s the state we’re/he’s in.
Highlights are many if you give it time. Some tracks could be a snarly cousin to Fun Boy Three’s ‘The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum)’ – so pop nous is existent. But this is what appeals so much about The OOZ. Marshall could easily become the next indie-superstar if he delivered more of the very good XX like tones of his previous album. Instead, Marshall’s offered a riskier enterprise, a redrawing of the King Krule universe that rewards those with enough patience to endure the more highfalutin ideas (which really grow on you BTW). If he can keep his head out of his own deepening pool, Marshall could be in this for the long term. The OOZ is his first demanding, original and very special chapter.
The OOZ is out now on XL.