King Krule’s “Man Alive!” Perfectly Summarizes Heartbreak

Man Alive?

Man Alive?

Writing an album about heartbreak is a hard thing to do. It can often sound in-genuine and bitter. Writing a whole work about the wrong another person has done to you is an intrusion. These albums can only work if you put your whole heart and soul into it and leave nothing unturned. You have to lean into the uncomfortableness of it all. King Krule’s “Man Alive!” does exactly this.

King Krule aka Archy Marshall is a British indie musician who plays every instrument on this record except the saxes which skillfully wails over almost every song. The music combines influences from post-punk, jazz and even the occasional psychedelic soul or hip hop breakbeat. The songs all flow into each other and progress radically between tones like one often does when contemplating and mulling over a lost love.

The album opens with some punky numbers that get progressively heavier. These first few numbers sound like lost artifacts from the late 70s early 80s when British punk got darker and more experimental. Marshall cries and yelps in anguish on these songs; drowning himself in drugs to numb his pain (“Stoned Again”), calling his ex when he knows he shouldn’t (“Cellular”), trying to find her in a “Supermarché.”

He finds himself caught in a cycle, repeating the same aspects repeatedly (“Comet Face”) and at this moment, a transition happens. On “The Dream,” the album gracefully transitions its sound to something more reflective yet still oddly menacing. On the next track, “Perfecto Miserable,” he calls his ex again. When he gets the voicemail tone, he leaves a message,

“You’re my everything
You make me feel alright
You’re the only thing
That makes me feel alright
You’re my everything
You make me feel alright
And you’re the only thing
I never feel alright”

Such a simple line, yet he delivers it with so much genuine and raw feeling that it feels more powerful than it should.

On what’s sure to be the standout track for most people, “Alone, Omen 3,” King Krule skillfully slinks over the smooth and reflective beat. In an alternate universe, this song would be played straight and would be a hit for someone like Kali Uchis. He sings, “but don’t forget you’re not alone,” but he doesn’t seem to believe what he says. Noisy feedback-laden guitars slowly surround the track, and we get back to his personal apocalypse. He can’t forget his love, even when he tries to fly away on the track, “Airport Antenatal Airplane.”

“Were you born in the earth?
Sometimes I see planes
But I think of you, and I stare
Sweeping through the night sky
All of you flying by
How many of you are up there?
Perfectly above my head
With your cheeks on a chair
Some asleep
Some lit up by
Hollywood minds are clear
I feel the weight of the world go
I start my journey to and fro
Passport in my pocket’s getting old
Feel the weight of the world dissolve

You all look so small from up here
You all look so small from up there
You all look so small from up here”

The lyrics on this album resonate with me in a way almost no album has before. And it all comes to an emotional climax in the last few tracks. He remembers a time when she told him that “nothing ever made me feel the way you do” (“Underclass”),  and then immediately on the next track, “Energy Fleets,” he remembers her leaving. He laughs to himself, “such a funny life,” as the track builds into a cacophony of noise and dissonance. He can’t cope with the pain anymore. On the final track, only accompanied by a lonesome menacing keyboard drone, he begs, “Please Complete Thee.” He needs her, he knows no other way. Even with all the fame and admiration from his fans, all he wants, nay, needs, is her.

“Such a funny life” indeed.

Rating: 5 stars out of 5