“’Scuse me man,” comes the voice tugging at our shirt as the slender frame of 18 year old Archy Marshall makes his way through the crowd to join his bandmates nervously waiting on stage. As many people’s current top tip, you could be forgiven for thinking there is a lot of pressure on the recent BRIT School graduate’s shoulders. Despite this and the teeming anticipation within Electrowerkz tonight, Marshall seems unburdened and nonchalant about the whole affair.
Formerly known as Zoo Kid, the renamed King Krule (after the Donkey Kong character) brings together songs from 2011’s self-titled EP with a host of new songs groomed for a potential new album. The band begins with the shoegaze number ‘Has This Hit’ which begins softly but is soon distorted with Marshall spitting and growling with punk angst lyrics. This is arguably the most startling thing for the many who are watching Marshall for the first time. For a chap with youthful and almost angelic features, his voice is that of a man who sounds like he has been smoking 40 a day since the womb.
It’s not just his vocal delivery that contradicts his youthful veneer but also the content. An urbanite who puts a splash of hip hop onto influences like Joe Strummer and Billy Bragg, Marshall speaks of the realities of city life and being young and disillusioned. In ‘Portrait in Black and Blue’ Marshall protests to being, “trapped in a lizard state, minds at the gate, looking for an escape” with an intensity that speaks for a generation. There is a balancing act however with the romanticism felt with the brushed hip hop drum patterns, grooving basslines and scant harmonic guitar patterns that feel written more for a parisienne jazz club than a call to arms. The intelligence and intricacy in the songs therefore demand full concentration from the audience no more so than throughout ‘Baby Blue’ which whoozes and dances away before building up into an incredible jam of bass solos and interweaving guitars which leave the crowd warm and starry-eyed.
We are then fully plunged into an enchanted state with fan favourite, ‘The Noose of Jah City’ full of echoing reverbs that has us high with nicotine dreams. This follows on to current single, the introverted ‘Rock Bottom’ which he finishes with an inspired sample of The Streets’, ‘Empty Cans’ amalgamating the lines, “It’s the end of something I did not want to end” as the song fades to finish. It’s not too far from how the crowd are feeling when the set finishes abruptly to first single, ‘Out Getting Ribs’.
This concludes a special and quite momentous gig for the group who finish to rapturous applause from their hometown fans. It is not difficult to believe that with Marshall’s off-kilter lyrics, gravel vocals and jazz/rockabilly/hip hop fusion that King Krule could be one of Britain’s finest. “You’re watching the King” Marshall cries during ‘Ocean Bed’, and as he leaves the way he came, parting the crowd with adulation, you can’t help feeling he is right.
Words by Andrew Darby