King Krule’s “Man Alive!” is an Album of Anguish and Despair

King Krule in concert. Photo by Michael Jamison/Shutterstock (9235247q)

Man Alive! is the third album by King Krule and it will likely divide fans down the middle. It’s an album of anguish and despair and it makes no attempt to reconcile the misery with a note of positivity.

The album opens with “Cellular”. The guitars are muddy and strange computer sounds come and go. The panoramic bleeps sit somewhere between ASMR and anxiety, making for an uncannily unpleasant listen. “Supermarché” is low key, perhaps to the extent that it could be described as dull. There’s a laziness to the track in the way that it indulges in its misery so passively.

“The Dream” is a 1:39 track that begins like a “Pulk (Revolving Doors)” tribute. The track slides into “Perfecto Miserable” and that is almost what the album is, only it’s not quite perfect. It’s hard to indulge in the misery when King Krule sounds so bored with it. Whereas bands like The Cure invite the outcasts to embrace the storm with them, King Krule seems to be deliberately alienating his listeners by making music that is just a little too difficult to get into.

“(Don’t Let The Dragon) Draag On” is the album single and a highlight. The lo-fi beats are familiar and make King Krule’s martyr drones more palatable. He sings: “Walls get taller / I self-medicate / And how did you get this low? / That’s what the illness spoke.” There is perhaps something admirable here in the way the artist opens up about his depression without needing to include the audience. There’s something unmediated and potent about the album’s commitment to its own misery.

“Theme For The Cross” is a mix between lo-fi study beats and a horror movie soundtrack. It straddles the uncanny valley, neither indicating that we should relax nor that we should commit to the chaos. The result is something uncomfortable that while potentially an artistic achievement, makes the music wholly unenjoyable to listen to.

The album closer “Please Complete Thee” is a desperate plea for reassurance. He sings: “This place doesn’t move me / Everything just seems to be numbness around / This place doesn’t move me / Everything just constantly letting me down.” There’s something heartbreaking about the track in the way it both seeks and resists comfort, like a teenager pushing away his mom when all he really wants is a hug.

Overall, there is something poignant about King Krule’s album but it too adamantly resists the listener to be enjoyable. Perhaps next time, Krule can channel his negativity into something that involves his fanbase rather than alienates them.