Sometime around the early 90s Gunter Sacks stopped believing in new British guitar acts. Gradually I became suspicious that all the acts being hyped through the likes of NME and Melody Maker lacked the substance of the great British bands (and solo artists like Billy Bragg) who had marked my adolesence. So I simply paid no more attention. The “New Wave of the New Wave”, Britpop, the Libertines and all the god-awful “landfill indie” that came after them – it all passed me by. Not that I stopped paying attention to British MUSIC mind you. It’s just that by then I had, in a tentative and dilletantish way, started to latch on to the hardcore continuum and decided that, here on in, this was where most subsequent forward movement in British music was going to be.
Until now, there have literally been only two British guitar acts I paid any attention to since then. The first was Bloc Party, and this was a VERY tentative endoresment. I thought the debut album had about 4 tracks that would have made a killer EP, but that was it.
The second was the XX. Sure you could kind of compare them to the Young Marble Giants, but ultimately this was POST-DUBSTEP indie. Sucking in the wide-open spaces of ’04 – ’08 era dubstep this was a class act and the second album did it even better than the first. Never mind the worship they attracted from hipsters and deluded fashionistas, Gunter loves the XX and doesn’t care who knows.
But it’s not like the XX really opened the floodgates for great British guitar music. In fact, there has been only one act to come out since the XX that’s been anywhere near as good.
Which, after this long-winded intro, brings me to the first guitar-slinging British person that I’d paid attention to since Romy Madley Croft. When I first heard about King Krule, the teenage protege from London influenced by No Wave and Fela Kuti, I was wary of the hype machine. But my cynicism faded as soon as I heard his debut single (released under the name “Zoo Kid” at the age of 16): the cryptically titled “Out Geting Ribs”. From the flat top haircut to the chunky knit sweater, the aesthetic was a pleasing throwback to the 80s. And musically the overall effect was like a young Billy Bragg singing over guitar by Vinny Reilly from the Durutti column.
I was convinced immediately and began to read up on the interesting back story of Archy Marshall (aka Zoo Kid/King Krule). No need to repeat here what can be read in inumerable interviews, but basically he comes across as the sort of extremely precocious art and music loving urban teenager that many of us once were. Except with real talent.
After “Out Getting Ribs” there was a string of further singles over a few years, some showing he could also tap into the dub-infused aspects of modern British urban culture. Consider “The Noose of Jah City”:
Since discovering him at the start of this year, I nursed moderately high hopes for his debut album “6 Feet Beneath the Moon” which finally came out at the end of August.
I was not dissapointed. As soon as I saw the video for the album-leading single “Easy Easy” (a song he allegedly wrote when he was 13 years old) I had a sense of a moment having arrived. The bit when he brandishes a cricket bat on a rooftop made me as excited as the early Joker 12″s in 2008.
The whole album is a time and place snaphot of London 2013. Mashing up echoes of Billy Bragg and Joe Strummer with strangely “Balearic” moments, Vinny Reilly guitar, a Rockabilly interlude and the underlying influence of his hip-hop side project “DJ JD Sports” (seriously!).
There won’t be a better album this year by somebody who relies on that antiquated instrument the guitar. Buy now.
Posted by Gunter Sacks