King Krule

Wrongbar, Toronto ON, September 11

BY Jazz MonroePublished Sep 12, 2013

Competing with Dirty Beaches for tonight's Toronto concertgoers, gravel-throated Archy Marshall and his band sold out the Wrongbar and put up a decent fight, while also giving the impression they would like to start one.

Witnessing King Krule clarifies something about his divisive debut, 6 Feet Beneath the Moon. What it has are not amazing songs but intriguing ones, songs decorated with quirks that zigzag between dreamy, playful and confrontational. But the clincher is Marshall's emphysema rasp, which captivates from opener "Has This Hit?" to the set's conclusion.

It's probably tough holding rapt a young audience that obsessively confines its memories to micro-SD cards, especially when your finest tracks are slow and groovy; simultaneously keeping up the quality and tempo proves challenging. Not that it registers with the camera-sniping contingent. Even the flimsiest numbers receive inebriated approval, "A Lizard State" disguising its origins in mod pastiche to riotous cheers.

Throughout, band members interplay with smirking British camaraderie. As Marshall peers out like a dusty-eyed tabby, his three-man backing band play rudimentary jazz with a tiring consistency that suggests they picked up the genre from a Wikihow article. Still, while the album's defining atmospherics are largely lost, there remains depth to match the brutish front, notably "Baby Blue"'s striking "I was bobbing, she was bobbing" climax and standout non-album cut "The Noose of Jah City."

But the set meanders, a hodgepodge of stylistic experiments and pseudo-axioms in the lyrics. "Easy Easy," a clap-along live favourite, is a cliché-ridden misfire that overestimates its wisdom: "If you're going through hell, just keep going," it whimpers hoarsely. While it's refreshing to see a British indie act hyped despite knowing more than eight chords, the emptiness in your stomach longs for a contender that more precisely lands its punches.

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