March 23, 2023
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Life & Culture

Review: Hypnotic live album mixes psychedelia with jazz

You Heat Me Up, You Cool Me Down

XL Recordings

King Krule’s fifth studio album “You Heat Me Up, You Cool Me Down” is a hypnotic, live album pieced together from shows the artist did before the pandemic. “You Heat Me Up, You Cool Me Down” expels ferocious and visceral emotion that is plainly on display for the listener to feel and experience with him. The album combines its punkrock foundation with stimulating, psychedelic accents and occasional elements of jazz.

The London artist opens the album with “Out Getting Ribs,” which introduces one of the most significant themes of the album: heartbreak. Here, King Krule’s beautifully elaborate poetry is unveiled with lyrics like, “Well I had no chance to get away / I can’t escape my own escape.The listener is exposed to some of the innermost thoughts of the artist. 

Much of the album consists of distorted guitars that are manipulated to sonically embody loneliness, despondency, rage and a myriad of complex thoughts that King Krule describes through his enigmatic lyricism. The album diverges from its brutal, riveting, punkrock style when a saxophone is introduced in the track “Rock Bottom.” 

The resonance in the arpeggiated chords of the guitar in the track “The Ooz” is reminiscent of a grisly and much darker Peach Pit. King Krule screams into the microphone over a smooth saxophone riff. The saxophone evokes feelings of melancholy and romance, adding an intoxicating and brilliant level to the album that juxtaposes the grim color of its lyrics. Part of what makes “You Heat Me Up, You Cool Me Down” so dazzling are the moments when King Krule introduces new sounds that are unexpected, but somehow end up completing the aural texture of the album. 

Another prevalent theme of the album is cynical existentialism. King Krule reflects on his experience as a menial employee in the track “Easy Easy” singing, “And while your dead-end job / Has been eating away your life / You feel little inside / The trouble and strife.” Both “Easy Easy” and “Rock Bottom” touch on powerful depictions of the innately complex human experience.

“Perfecto Miserable” is a powerful declaration of love. The artist sings, “You’re my everything / You make me feel alright / You’re the only thing / That makes me feel alright.” The track crescendos slowly as a heavily distorted saxophone wails, and echoes and cymbals delicately crescendo and decrescendo. The verse ends with a droning hissing sound over several D Major Eleventh chords that contain dissonance and tension between the pitches. These unsettling sounds accompany King Krule’s tragic lyrics and lamenting vocals.

While this album is extremely well made with much intention and fervor, it is not revolutionary. King Krule’s lyrics are exceptionally personal and interesting, but everything he is singing about has been expressed musically before: heartbreak, despair, dark introspection. These feelings are nothing new — especially in the world of music and poetry. 

This album contains so many layers and intricacies; just when the listener thinks they have a feel for where the album is going, King Krule introduces something new. While the production value of the album is great, the lyricism is marvelous. King Krule is a wonderful poet and “You Heat Me Up, You Cool Me Down” is an excellent addition to his discography.