Like any great artist on the rise, Archy's life is moving fast. There’s a lot to catch up on, after 2017’s sprawling masterpiece, The Ooz, broke through amid Mercury Prize nominations and minds-blown media plaudits. Unlike that record, Man Alive! doesn’t aim to present any kind of narrative thread, or Brexit-era state-of-the-nation address, just a collection of snapshots and stories, artfully sequenced into a dazzlingly coherent whole.
This third King Krule album was written as a direct reaction to the non-stop energy of touring The Ooz, and then partly recorded at Shrunken Heads in Marshall’s native stamping ground of Nunhead, with ‘Ooz’ co-producer Dilip Harris. Midway through those sessions, however, Archy found out he was going to become a dad for the first time, and he decided to move up to the North West to be near his partner's family, ready for the baby’s arrival.
“I should’ve had it all wrapped up before my daughter was born,” says Marshall with a sheepish grin. Impending parenthood came at a felicitous moment for him, as he was beginning to feel trapped in South London’s suburban lifestyle of all-eclipsing drunkenness and depression, which existing fans will know was a recurring theme in his earlier music.
“It was just the easiness of it,” he reflects today. “There really is nothing else to do here, especially when it turns to winter. Everyone I know has jobs, whereas I’d sit on my arse all day sometimes not doing anything, then I’d go to the pub with them when they finished work. It became a bit habitual. Then, right in the middle of the record, this big change came in my life that I didn't really comprehend initially. It was like, ‘Oh, I’d better get my shit together!’ To be honest, I was really glad to get away from all that so I could focus on more pressing matters – like keeping a child alive and stuff.”
The new album’s title, he explains, “is an exclamation, about the times we live in. Like, ‘Fucking hell, man!’” He stole the title from a CD that his uncle gave him back in 2013 with some of his uncle’s own music on it, and originally planned to use it for his last album.
“More and more,” he explains, “I've been put off by the intention of speaking about what's going on in society as a black-and-white thing, or trying to get to the bottom of why we’re in this position. So the album is mostly made up of snapshots and observations. There are a lot of real-time-and-place moments, songs talking about walking through the park just over there and getting a head injury, then there are other tracks which are just simplicity, looking at one particular situation and reflecting on it as somehow being super-profound.”
Release: February 21st, 2020, XL Recordings/Remote Control
Words: Remote Control