Power Chords huh? Well, we don’t think trading standards will be knocking round Mike Krol’s door any time soon. The album is rife with them, m’lud. It’s okay though – it’s nice, unthreatening garage rock power chords, and nothing to be afraid of.
Power Chords is Krol’s second record on Merge, following 2015’s Turkey – which, very much to Krol’s credit, weighs in at a mere 18 minutes. Sit up, you dweebs; that’s proper rock and/or roll.
Krol lists his influences as The Strokes, Misfits, early Weezer, and The Ramones. Power Chords certainly leaves you in no doubt about the former. Krol’s slightly-languid drawl and tendency towards chunky melodies disguised in fuzz recall the Institut Le Rosey’s storied alumni at their best. To the extent that you’ll suffer an earworm which a mental reflex will ascribe to Casablancas before you realise you’ve not listened to The Strokes for the best part of a decade. Listening to “An Ambulance” you half expect it to go into the pre-chorus of “Barely Legal” (ugh, 2001 – keep it).
Power Chords represents a more restrained affair than the rest of the works in Krol’s oeuvre. If it was the Unicorns-like erratic wackiness of said works which appealed to your taste, perhaps you’ll find Power Chords objectionable – though you’ll still find a touch of it on “Wasted Memory”. Meanwhile the Thermals-esque “The End” also has clear forebears in his earlier albums.
On the other hand, if you find yourself wishing Krol would stop dicking about and just do some straight up punk-tinged garage rock numbers, power in constraint and that sort of thing. you’ll probably find numbers like “Little Drama” and “Nothing to Yell About” to your taste. There’s a hint of a British odd couple in “I Wonder”, which manages to sound like mid-90s Supergrass and late-90s Radiohead. “Blue and Pink” fulfils the Weezer quota.
Where does this leave us? It’s not going to do anything to make Krol a more distinct name in many people’s imaginations. As a well-executed, satisfying collection of fuzzy power pop, there’s little with which to find fault. Certainly, there’s more than sufficient evidence here of a man very interested in making records – which given the self-imposed stylistic constraints under which he operates is a crucial safeguard against the dreaded blandness. As his sound continues to mature, that’s perhaps a risk he’ll increasingly face.
For now though, we can appreciate an artist coming into his own. Even that happens to sound like a lot of other artists…
Released: 25th January 2019, Merge Records