Review Summary: The Ooz only shorter, better and more cerebral.
Man Alive! might sound like Archy Marshall’s - aka King Krule’s most in-consequent release yet. There’s no benefit of a debut release like Six Feet Beneath The Moon being his first splash and excusing his growing song-writing sensibilities, or his sophomore in which he found his sound but not without dragging it through mud with the long and overdrawn The Ooz. Reaching Man Alive! I suppose anything goes, but it can run off like a transitional record - maybe a re-imagining of The Ooz but cut down to a 40 minute run time and songs that cut themselves short of reaching any self-indulgent passages.
However, I must say - I love this record. While I know this album hasn’t turned many heads, there’s a lot to take from this record as it is quite an abstract listen. Much like The Ooz, songs are strung together seamlessly such as how the single ‘Alone, Omen 3’ and ‘Slinky’ are two different songs because as far as I’m concerned, they are one. Tracks run like vignettes, all knitted together and often ending either in cacophony, ambience or directly into the next.
There is a through-line skit that runs early through the album and that’s the use of phone calls that gradually become more and more ignored as the album progresses. The phone calls seem to be trying to reach an ex. In fact, this could be labelled partially as Archy’s break-up record - only that it is diluted with so much darkness and depression that tracks like ‘Supermarche’ and ‘Stoned Again’ show just how hard Archy may be falling at his own hand.
‘Stoned Again’ juxtaposes Archy’s current over-use or even abuse of getting high and comparing how he has become vs. a younger Archy who when he was ten ‘got a puppy,’ almost trying to reflect just how he’s tumbled so far from his upbringing and how things have gone the way they have. ‘Theme for the Cross’ makes reference to imagery like ‘men who drowned whilst holding their daughters,’ a clear feeling Archy conveys about his fatherhood, hurt more by the fact this split only fractures the relationship with his child only further.
‘Underclass’ which is the most straight forward jazz ballad of the record speaks about how judgement has cut close to Archy about his ways, even his social class - possibly commenting how his ways are much more like ‘the underclass’ or leading him towards it and how he maybe doesn’t care if that’s so. These at-least are some of the more obvious lyrical themes, because majority of this album is very surrealist, poetic, often in spoken word: ‘prisoners [bashing] brains to a pulp.’ Take ‘Cellular’ for example, imagery of a french girl crying in the palm of your hands, lying dead inside your mind. It’s often intoxicating visuals that are drawn from the more surrealist and abstract cuts like this and majority of Man Alive!
This release is a much more cerebral listen than anything Archy has released before under the King Krule name. While I understand The Ooz is a beloved record that many would describe as just that, Man Alive! is maybe more challenging on entry but far more rewarding on re-listen than The Ooz was, a record that sounds cool but that I always tune out of only earlier and earlier on revisiting. Man Alive! on the other hand has me slowly falling into it like some comical vision of a homeless man rummaging a dumpster before he just falls in and gets swallowed up by it.