Fuzzy garage rock has rarely contained this much wistful heartache. The previous album from Los Angeles-based musician Mike Krol, 2015’s Turkey, clocked in at just 18 minutes, but packed in a year’s worth of rambunctious potency. His new record, Power Chords, clocking it at nearly double the length of its predecessor, feels almost indulgent in comparison, but with its added running time comes a bit more thematic focus.
Power Chords is a distinctly ugly record, but that’s part of the appeal. Though its sonic palette isn’t wide-ranging by any means, Krol’s grubby rock is better when its knees are scraped, eyes are bloodshot and heart is ripped open. The album cover depicts Krol perched atop a bed, playing a guitar in a gaudy, old bedroom with a black eye and his nose bloodied, as if he’s just lost a fight with the school bully and is strumming away to block out the noise of the world. Even though Krol isn’t a teenager anymore, the album is characterized by disquietude. He wants time away from his spiralling thoughts whether it’s that person on his mind who he thought was the one or his ongoing battle with self-destruction. Krol is a wounded man but he’s not wearing rose-colored shades. He’s just trying to make sense of it all.
Krol is a sensitive character and even though there’s a masculine energy on this record, it doesn’t have the kind of seductive, late-night escapade feel or egotistical chest-beating that you might hear on other garage records. On “Blue and Pink,” he sings with crushing desolation, “This old suburban fantasy / It’s ruining me / Sometimes I want the palm trees / To lean so far that they break / And crush me.” His emotional maturity drips throughout this record, particularly on the title track when he sings about the takeaways of a failed relationship (“But I’ll take this anyway to my grave / The part of me that you saved”).
The beginning four track run—”Power Chords,” “What’s the Rhythm,” “An Ambulance” and “Little Drama”—is the album’s finest sequence. “Power Chords” is the epitome of garage rock perfection. It might be a little anticlimactic to place the album’s firm top dog as the opener, but it’s impossible to delete the fuzzy chorus from your brain. Krol risks overshadowing his angsty songs with his thick, Stroke-like vocal filters, but they bring this angst to life by adding a dimension of teenage nostalgia with its bedroom DIY feel. While the sonics can feel tiresome after a while, Krol ends on a high note with his extremely muddy cut, “The End,” which is nicely offset with a piercing synth interlude. Power Chords is much more lyrically mature and musically adept than your average garage rock record, and its teenage sheen might urge you to fanatically scroll the lyrics on your notebook or bedroom wall of choice.