Better Than: Mope rock.
A little while after King Krule’s sold-out headlining show at Webster Hall last night, someone tweeted that the 19-year-old British producer and singer-songwriter, born Archy Marshall, “put on the best concert of 1959.” Marshall–who started making music as Zoo Kid before he turned 17, changed his stage name, and took inspiration from London’s 2011 summer riots for his debut self-titled EP that same year–did actually combine Buddy Holly’s nerdy charm with the suave stage presence of Frank Sinatra: the initial impression of his oversized suit and unruly red hair, which he kept trying unsuccessfully to smooth over, belied how easily he wooed the audience with his gritty baritone croons about crocodiles, Mr. Moon, and getting hung up on past lovers.
New York’s Ratking, who opened for King Krule when he came through town in September, gave a spitfire opening set that alternated between confrontational (“At least I’m fucking trying, what the fuck have you done?” said rapper Hak, borrowing a famous line from Minor Threat) and contrite (at one point, his partner in rhyme Wiki acknowledged the crowd with a bashful “Oh, hi” before turning his face away from the microphone) aided by dense, booming production from third member Sporting Life. At first it seemed like an abrupt shift from them to the night’s main act, which took the stage in full suits; once Marshall got into the unpredictably smoldering groove of opener “Has This Hit?” and perched on the lip of the stage, bobbing and weaving like the rappers on before him, the connection between the two seemingly disparate acts was apparent.
In fact, it’s kind of hard to pinpoint connections between King Krule and anyone else in recent memory. That’s because Marshall and his singular backing band–a guitarist, bassist, and a seemingly, adeptly jazz-studied drummer–managed to make Webster Hall feel as intimate as the Blue Note. They find the most emotionally transformative parts of a few genres. There are traces of trip-hop in King Krule’s hollow melancholy, and spoken word poetry in “Rock Bottom” and storytelling verses on “Ocean Bed.” Guitars are finger-picked and loosely strummed (“Out Getting Ribs,” intentionally opened with tape hiss on record and “the first song I put out into the world,” according to Marshall). There are skittery mouthfuls of “fat bitches” and free-jazz saxophones on “A Lizard State.” All are effortlessly woven into something both completely new and disarmingly familiar.
Most people had been singing along with him for almost every song and nearly collapsing in ecstasy when Marshall slid onto his keyboard bench for the perfectly named morose pseudo-ballad “Cementality,” but when he lit into the shouts of “EASY EASY!” for his full-length debut 6 Feet Beneath the Moon‘s first single of the same name, the shoutback was debilitating in the best way possible.
Overheard: “You have to have two beers. You’ll relax. Just take a nap in the corner for 45 minutes. I’ll wake you up when he goes on.”
Critical Bias: I may have gotten a contact high from the crew next to me smoking, like, five blunts in a row. And then eating Starbucks La Boulange.
Random Notebook Dump: I never noticed the pole in the green room above the stage until a member of one of the bands’ entourages used it as a stripper pole.
King Krule Setlist:
Has This Hit?
A Lizard State
Out Getting Ribs