That Andy Marshall, aka King Krule, hails from London should come as no surprise.
London does the prodigious teen-musician bit as well as anywhere in the world. Think Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, who continues to write aggressive, sophisticated rock music some six years after blowing up at the age of 19.
At 17, Marshall’s even younger than Turner was. And while Arctic Monkeys, especially in their earliest phase, plied a nuanced but danceable form of rock and roll — long a youth-dominated genre — Marshall as King Krule makes cutting, full-bodied soul.
Krule’s been a popular wagon to ride in the music industry lately, with his debut EP having dropped this week. It doesn’t take long to see why: his voice, deep and rugged, calls to mind an elastic, English Roy Orbison, and watching it rise from such an unlikely appearance proves rewarding in and of itself.
Kid can flat sing. His lyrics dig through the offal of love with a deftness that one doesn’t often associate with teenagers, though the vitriol certainly sounds familiar. A sample lyric, from “Out Getting Ribs“: “I hoped I’d never be shut down / But girl, I’m black and blue / So beaten down for you / Well I’m beaten down and blue.”
Marshall produces his own instrumentals as well, which meld an R&B/hip-hop sensibility — loops, drum machine, the clatter of urban life — with the warm piano and murmuring bass of soul music.
Check out his best track off the EP, “The Noose of Jah City.” (Best after excluding the one-minute-long “Lead Existence,” which could be four times its length.) While the EP is a little uneven and dissapointingly brief, it’s also a remarkable first statement from such a young artist.
The music has a certain remoteness to it, which makes the first listen cold and a little forbidding, but King Krule could catch on here.
Americans are always looking for the next British sensation, and though Marshall’s voice deviates from those of polished crooners like Michael Buble, their success shows that there’s still a market for men who can sing with gravity.
With any luck, King Krule will develop an audience beyond bloggers and London, much in the way that Alex turner has. At his age, there’s no rush, either.
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