Of all the breakups in Mike Krol's songs, the most harrowing
story is about his breakup with music.
In 2015, coming off of his best record yet and the ensuing
world tour, Krol found himself in the midst of a full-blown
existential crisis. He'd invested everything to create the rockand-roll
life he'd always wanted, but he wasn't sure the life
wanted him back.
Power Chords, Krol's new Merge release, picks up where
2015's Turkey left off. It traces Krol's journey back to punk
rock, harnessing both the guitar technique and the musical
redemption referenced in its title. To rediscover the power
in those chords, Krol recorded for two-plus years in three
separate locations (Nashville, Los Angeles, and Krol's native
Wisconsin). The record opens in a howling maelstrom of
feedback: welcome to Krol's crucible. After a stage-setting
spoken-word intro (I used to never understand the blues, until
the night I met you. And every day since, I've gotten better at
guitar), we find ourselves back in familiar Krol territory
aggressive and assertive, scratchy and raw, catchy as hellbut
something has changed. The sounds have a new densityand
so do the stories. Krol's lyrics have always walked a fine line
between self-acceptance and self-destruction, but throughout
Power Chords, they reveal a new sense of self-awareness.
Without a little drama I grow bored and sick of all my days,
he sings on Little Drama, and it's just one revelatory moment
on a record full of them.
Of course, none of this is to say that Krol has mellowed. You
might find a mea culpa or two, but Mike Krol will never
be chastened. If anything, he's out more for revenge than
forgiveness, and if he's grown, it's because he's grown bolder.
He's wielding the same influencesMisfits, The Strokes, early
Weezer, Ramonesbut turning up the gravity and the gain.
Indeed, Krol has gone somewhere new; yes, he bludgeoned
himself with over-analysis and self-loathing, but along the way
he stumbled upon a trove of intricate guitar lines and artfully
mutating melodies. It's there in the chorus of Blue and
Pink, the bridge in I Wonder, the entirety of the deliriously
infectious first single, An Ambulance.
Music ruined Krol's life. And then saved it. In chronicling that
process, Krol has made his best recordpainful, voyeuristic,
and angry, but ultimately transcendent and timeless. It is the
sound of Krol giving in to a force greater than himself, as though
the chords are playing him rather than the other way around.