With an abrasive vocal delivery that makes Shane MacGowan sound like a coherent teetotaller, Archie Marshall, aka King Krule, seems an unlikely graduate of the BRIT School that also helped to launch the careers of Amy Winehouse, Adele and Leona Lewis.
Indeed, released on his 19th birthday, his raw, abrasive and utterly uncompromising debut album, 6 Feet Beneath The Moon, suggests that the South Londoner was more likely to be skulking around the back of the bike sheds than partaking in Fame-style sing-alongs and dance routines. And yet King Krule has already amassed the kind of attention that most of his fellow students could only dream about. Perhaps trying to keep up with sister Solange’s hipster leanings, Beyonce recently posted a link to opening track “Easy Easy” on her Facebook page, although what her fans made of its echo-laden bedsit indie sound is anyone’s guess. Frank Ocean and Tyler, The Creator have also both expressed an interest in working with his unique talents.
There are several occasions on 6 Feet Beneath The Moon when you wonder what all the fuss is about. “Out Getting Ribs” and “Ocean Bed” are the kind of aimless stream-of-consciousness numbers you’d expect to hear at an open-mic night on a wet Wednesday. Elsewhere, the sluggish “Baby Blue” adheres to the same less-is-more approach as The xx’s reverb-drenched melancholy, but again, sounds frustratingly unfinished.
However, the album comes alive when King Krule combines his inner-city tales with a grittier urban production as on “Foreign 2,” a nocturnal blend of jittery beats and washed-out synths which could leave Burial looking over his shoulder, the melancholic post-dubstep of “Neptune Estate” and the ambient comedown of “Will I Come.”
Of course, your enjoyment of 6 Feet Beneath The Moon will depend almost entirely on your tolerance level for Marshall’s distinctive drunken slurring tones. If you can get past their absurdity, then this mish-mash of London sounds is a promising coming-of-age listen, even if it’s not quite the game-changer his star-studded champions may believe.