In 2013, a 19-year-old Archy Marshall descended from the London night with 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, leaving indie fans swooning over King Krule: a heartbroken ginger darling with his paws scraping at his imperfections the way one cannot leave dead skin to heal. Then he vanished, returned to release 2015’s A New Place 2 Drown book and soundtrack under his birth name, and disappeared once more. For a wunderkind to take their leave of absence, shrouded by praise and attention, returning feels like the easy part. They reclaim their space in our public life, bearing gifts like the distant friend we’re fond of, but how often does that nagging public focus on what made them disappear? Marshall’s attributed his downtime to drained inspiration, fame interfering with the process, and fighting the same damnation that made him a star. Thanks to the oddities of his recent relationships and moving back in with his mom, King Krule’s resurfaced with a sprawling return to form and a firmer grasp on his own madness.
The OOZ is a comeback LP with a predictable narrative for a reclusive teen rockstar: his lovers never stay, his depression won’t leave him be, and the latter’s far too intertwined with the former. More heavy-handed than its predecessors, Marshall transports several leagues deeper into this grey-blue universe, gliding through vibes as his guts spill across the palette. The single choices paint this picture without a second glance: “Czech One” floats like a dream sequence, “Dum Surfer” dives headfirst into post-punk with a dash of jazz, and the guitars on “Half Man Half Shark” chug along with a relentless fury before caving into nothingness. Fitting, for the listener floats in and out of ambiance and nothingness, surrounded by every zone Marshall desires to rekindle and dreads returning to. It’s grippingly visceral to the point where it feels a step from apologizing; while some may find it difficult to stomach all this blue, there’s enough light remaining to make the context possible. “Dum Surfer,” along with the poppy swing of “Vidual,” are sure to incite moshpits of delight.
Marshall’s newfound maturity lends to a broadened lyrical range between waxing poetic and directly naming the sources of his despair. Loopy opener “Biscuit Town” finds Marshall contemplating whether or not his lover thinks he’s bipolar, while “Emergency Blimp” finds him begging the doctors for help since the pills aren’t calming his insomnia: “I told him he wasn’t doing things right / So he put me on some more / No change as the year flew by / I gave that fool a call.” There’s a depth in his depictions of romantic reservations as well: the nostalgic whines of young love have made room for a character stuck on his own memories, thirsty for creating more while self-sabotage feels inevitable. This love extends to a woman as well as the London he’s finding less familiar, noted in the “Bermondsey Bosom:” “Me and you against the city of parasites / Parasite, paradise.” He’s never held reservations on spelling it out, but his execution forces him to spit the truth out: desperate as he must be, sometimes too tired to bother, even calm and reflective while filing through the ugly. This improved intentionality saves The OOZ when it borders on beating the horse far past its expiration, leaving room for the listener to feel comfortable in the deep sea dive.
In a King Krule record, perfection’s never on the menu and darkness’s always on the table. The OOZ is unapologetically long and borderline tiring if one’s seeking to escape the blue Archy thrives within. But that’s precisely what it needs to be: a new installment in the legacy of a lone Londoner, hidden with trinkets for those who’ve been down through the name changes and the hiatus to grow up. Marshall balances many things well, but he’s still the rockstar we’ve craved with a purpose destined to extend far beyond the cult heroism of downtrodden youth worldwide. Whether we’ll one day find a happier Archy, returning from the depths to stay for a while, remains anyone’s wager. For now, he’s proven he’s willing to take the time; that’s a victory for himself and the world. If he stays the course, his voice will prove more useful than he’s ever imagined possible.