There’s no such thing as a teenager who’s completely at peace with himself, the world, or anything that involves feelings. Boy doesn’t meet world. It’s more like the world coldcocks you with a closed fist and mocks your fatlip. The advisors and idols aren’t there when this happens, and you’re left tending those emotional wounds by yourself. Every teen has these moments of deep introspection and often it happens during man’s time of reprieve—the night.
This is the scenario 19-year-old Archy Marshall—King Krule—finds himself in on 6 Feet Beneath The Moon. He barely gives you any anecdotes throughout the album, so we never really quite find out why he’s so glum. Then again, he’s not really here to tell stories. This is a time for reflection. 6 Feet Beneath The Moon features King Krule wrestling with a variety of contradictions. He’s reaching for beauty, while mourning its loss. He searching for love despite the wounds it’s left on his 19-year-old psyche. Isolation and optimism constantly flirt with each other on a deeply affecting debut effort.
King Krule’s tools are pretty easy to grasp. He’s at home under the night’s cloak and he’s armed with a baritone, heavily accented voice that sounds beyond his years along with a jazzy backdrop. It’s an alluring mix by itself, but what’s interesting is how he plays with these tools to reveal his tricks. Take the outstanding album opener, “Easy Easy”, for instance. It builds off a steady riff before it quickly climaxes in the chorus flanged bliss of the hook. It’s the sunrise over the River Thames…or at least you’d think.
The succeeding 13 tracks feature King Krule snarling, ranting, and cooing over that need for human connection. This isn’t dawn; it’s dusk. And that’s fine because the albums has its climaxes in the nighttime atmosphere.
The 19-year-old’s aged voice manages to give a sense of terseness and poeticism to his lyrics. Earnest lines like “I know when I look into the sky there’s no meaning” (“Has It Hit?”) and “This girl, she doesn’t hold a tear in my head/The brain lives on but the vibes are dead” (“Neptune Estate”) can come off as overly melancholic from a lesser vocalist, but from King Krule it exudes a deep earthy pain. On the album-closing “Bathed in Grey”, he sings with fragility before breaking into a stoic “I see things simple/But it only rekindles/These darkest shades of blue” on “Bathed in Grey”—with audible deathly coughs in the background.
Emotional vulnerability doesn’t come easy for King Krule, so he sort of just shields himself with this mournful tone while allowing the music to express grief for him. They prove to be very eloquent speakers as the jazzy seventh chords and reverb add another level of intimacy to the album. The horns violently stab at the listener as King Krule growls and spits his vitriol on “A Lizard State”. The belligerent bass line gives way to the warm guitar on the hook to reveal desperation: “But baby what am I to do?/I’ve given up on loving you.” A sliding guitar riff waltzes with King Krule’s air-cutting croons on “Ocean Bed”. Fleeting higher-octave guitar notes descend and beautifully matches the singer as he drops his guard and belts out his feelings to his lover. He’s either breaking free of the night’s cloak here or reaching a level of ecstasy in it.
This groundwork is further expanded on in the impressive “Out Getting Ribs” (which was released when Marshall went by his prior alias—Zoo Kid) There’s an arpeggiated chord added and the bass line is more intimate. It’s steady, but it suddenly falls apart as the song reaches its peak. It makes sense, because the singer is also falling apart at the seams: “Well I’m beaten down and blue/Don’t break away/I’ll waste away.”
But if the warm textures and the lyricism of the song implies anything, it’s that there’s a deep beauty at the precipice of destruction. Every teenager who’s survived that near-downfall knows there’s the beauty of rising from it as well. 6 Feet Beneath The Moon never really describes that. King Krule sings from the same stoic perspective—whether he’s indulging in his loneliness or seeking to reject it—for 14 tracks and by the end it doesn’t feel like he isn’t any better for the wear. It’s like a bildungsroman minus the part where the character actually comes of age. As such, all the tracks are worth listening to separately but can all be too downtrodden to take in one listen.
Then again, that may be part of the album’s point. King Krule streamed 6 Feet Beneath The Moon in a continuous loop on his website and perhaps that’s symbolic of the continuous dialogue with our emotional wounds. These nocturnal moments of introspection are at their ugliest for some during the teen years, but they certainly don’t end when you hit 20. There’s a little bit of 6 Feet Beneath The Moon everyone can connect to even if the singer struggles in the human relations department.