Archy Marshall easily makes the short list of the strangest underground rock sensations of 2013. In his guise as King Krule, the 19-year-old British singer-songwriter puts familiar yet disparate styles into combinations as unlikely as the thick Cockney bellow that emanates from his angular, juvenile face. There’s Billy-Bragg punk with supper-club jazz, rockabilly guitar with hip-hop grooves, minimalist sounds with complex structures.
But when Marshall and his three-piece band took the stage at the sold-out Brighton Music Hall on Thursday night, the biggest surprise was how naturally it all came together. At first, the tall, gangly singer’s oversize gray shirt and white Fender guitar seemed too big for the bird-bone delicacy of his teenage frame and fingers. Yet as soon as he started the slow, angry croon of “Has This Hit?” Marshall and his equally youthful bandmates handled themselves like veteran professionals.
Leaning into the crowd, Marshall pushed the opening song even further into yowling despair than he does on his 2013 debut album, “6 Feet Beneath the Moon.” Then, at a critical juncture, he drew back enough so the crowd could be heard happily singing along the crucial lines “Girl, I’m the only one believing/ There’s nothing to believe in.”
The song itself pulls off a similar trick, starting off with bleak, slightly discordant tones before pulling back into warm jazz chords. Sophisticated musical modulations like that might account for the presence of several middle-age music fans among the youthful crowd of nearly 500. At the show’s 10 o’clock start, artfully pierced young women and their roughly bearded boyfriends stood packed from wall to wall. But the hall emptied a bit by the show’s end at 11, as the band’s thin sound and the songs’ subtle structures failed to hold attention through the weaker numbers, like the meandering jazz poetry of “The Krockadile.”
Still, enthusiastic fans rallied to mosh to the main set’s last number, “Easy Easy,” which hit harsh but went down smooth, a distiller’s trick that apparently doesn’t always require age to master.
Franklin Soults can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.