Archy Marshall’s voice is a weapon; one designed for vicious clubhouse beatings and backalley mutilation. The (as of only last week) 19 year old British phenom sings like a thug lord dracula, pronouncing each snarl and every tongue twist with a vicious Englishness that Alex Turner only wishes he could affect. It is a voice, though, that seems best suited to the bedroom squalor of bargain bin keyboards and semi-tuned guitars being recorded through laptop mics. On 6 Feet Beneath the Moon King Krule’s potential for a relentless and awe-inspiring evil is checked by clean blues guitars and Portishead-inspired electronica. Don’t get me wrong: the results are agreeable. But 6 Feet Beneath the Moon is also a constant reminder of the potential it worked so hard to bury.
6 Feet Beneath the Moon kicks off with a clean-lit driving blues rhythm that had me instantly pining for the lo-fi austerity of Bruce Springsteen’s similarly chugging “State Trooper.” For an album that purportedly represents the dirty recklessness of teenage life, 6 Feet Under the Moon is surprisingly clean. But is there ever a catch: because the trick up opening track “Easy Easy”’s sleeve is a curvy, Joy Division-esque chord progression that rollicks along under Marshall’s exasperated accusations. Whether it be on the rock-tinged “Easy Easy” or the trip-hoppy “Ceiling” Marshall’s voice and contouring lyrics never sound anything other than authentically tortured.
Such is the power of Marshall’s voice, able as it is to lend solemn (borderline violent) weight to any musical situation it might find itself in. Even on “A Lizard State”, which has been reworked into some sort of Mark Ronson-cum-Arctic Monkeys brass fest, Marshall holds onto his slim, lo-fi cool with the intensity of a Nick Cave. 6 Feet Beneath the Moon is at its best during the moments in which Marshall’s lava king voice is made to navigate the clever twists of his chord progressions. What King Krule seems to get that other golden voiced acts do not is that your pipes are worth nothing if they aren’t put to task by a great chord progression (something that’s kept the likes of David Bowie in the limelite for the better part of fifty years).
An album like 6 Feet Beneath the Moon was something of a given for someone so strange and popular as King Krule. Refurbs like “Out Getting Ribs” sound great but certainly didn’t need fresh packaging, and album premiers are unfortunately tempered; lacking in a lot of the bitter savagery that is being 19 years old. A vibrant and very listenable disappointment, 6 Feet Beneath the Moon is a testament to the way even well-meaning reintroductions can distract from vibrance by which an artist first claimed our attentions. I don’t mean to sound dire: Archy Marshall is not, by any stretch of the imagination, in danger of being shadowed into some corporate music entity. 6 Feet Beneath the Moon just feels like it’s reaching for a lot of stars when I’d rather it touched its toes in the dark.