King Krule - The OOZ

by Thom Vigor

The word “OOZ” came from the combination of Archy Marshall’s previous moniker, ‘Zoo Kid’ and the name of his brother’s band, ‘Words Backwards’, to create the rather disgusting sounding ‘Dik Ooz’. The word has taken on a more specific meaning for Marshall, though: it’s “your sweat, your nails, the sleep that comes out of your eyes, your dead skin. All of those [subconscious] creations that you have to refine.” The word having both physical and metaphysical meanings is consistent with the content of the album – The OOZ drags you into Marshall’s inner thoughts, where events of miscommunication and abandonment are woven masterfully together with feelings of depression and loneliness. It contextualises the monotony of day to day life with his soul-crushing internal pain; you can almost feel it oozing out of him – damp, warm and rotten.

The OOZ is King Krule’s long awaited sophomore album, however he has released other music under his real name, Archy Marshall, in the meantime. His debut album as King Krule, Six Feet Beneath the Moon was released to critical acclaim in 2013, when the Londoner songwriter was just 19. While the album received positive reviews across the board, some critics have said that they felt a disconnect between its production and King Krule’s direction and lyricism, due to the producer Rodaidh McDonald’s heavy involvement in the album’s conception. The OOZ, on the other hand, sees a much more mature Archy Marshall handle every aspect of the album with noticeable experience and skill. The album feels more personal, more emotional, and more visceral.

King Krule’s musical genre has always been notoriously difficult to define; whatever genre you search for in The OOZ, you’re almost bound to find it somewhere, from rock and punk jazz, to trip-hop and ska. But Marshall has mastered his sound, and he manages to blend all of these different musical styles together to great effect, the musical variation keeping the listener engaged in what can at times be a very dense record. Dum Surfer is exemplary of this variation, with the song’s musical progression leading to a satisfying and powerful listen. The song eerily fades in, with the sound of distant laughter and a bass being strummed. Then, a faint guitar and finally the drums along with Marshall’s famous, deep, thick and powerful voice. This instrumental build-up, along with Marshall’s strong full-rhymes and sharp delivery of consonants, lends itself to giving his voice incredible power – it’s as if King Krule is in front of you shouting about drunkenly puking in front of a girl he can’t really remember, and then crashing in a cab. It remains unclear if it’s him or the cab that ‘crashes’ – but does it really matter?

Not all the songs on The OOZ are so powerful, however. Most other songs end before they’ve even really started, the musical progression not taking place as it does in Dum Surfer; King Krule often remains distant, too, and sometimes even lets the instrumentals speak for themselves, not saying anything. His tone changes as well, ranging from contemplative to rowdy, and from whispering to howling. Shifts in tone are often utilised to increase the intensity of a song – in Midnight 01 (Deep Sea Diver)Marshall goes from singing quietly about his girlfriend leaving him because of his depression, to howling “and if we swim down low” repeatedly, in the album’s greatest climax before it winds down.

My greatest complaint with The OOZ is that many of its songs seem like they’re going to progress into something, maybe a catchy chorus or a moving climax, but instead peter out, not really going anywhere. But in a way, that’s also where the album’s greatest strength lies; it fits the album’s overarching theme of diving into deepest reaches of the murky sea that is Archy Marshall’s mind, with thoughts coming and going, some developing, others simply fading away to be replaced with a new thought. Each thought is different, some are far away and in the back of his mind, while others feel more like panic attacks. They’re all so different in tone, content and sound – yet they all lead back to the same topic, Marshall’s feelings of numb depression and desperate loneliness.

You can feel his numbness especially, he often sounds indifferent to everything as dark, wet, low-key music drowns him. But occasionally this gives way to some of the most genuine, beautiful, raw emotion that this reviewer has ever heard in music. Archy Marshall’s ability to use contrast – musically, vocally and lyrically –  gives The OOZ the lowest lows, and the highest highs.