Mike Krol

Mike Krol Is Never Dead: The First Two Records

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Anyone who fears for the future of rock & roll should be reassured by the story of Mike Krol. Krol is a guy from Wisconsin who, after moving to California, started making lo-fi, hi-energy homemade recordings that attracted an underground following and ended up winning him a deal with Merge Records. Though Krol's modest success is inspiring in itself, the real story here is that there are still people out there bashing out their own varieties of guitar-based music, full of humor, energy, and a unique vision. At a time when many folks assume rock is either dead or in a deep sleep, Mike Krol is one of many hardy, unsung pioneers who are still finding lots of things to say with three chords and plenty of piss and vinegar, and his scrappy homemade tracks are as lovingly punk as a pair of cheap canvas sneakers. Mike Krol Is Never Dead: The First Two Records is a collection that features in full the two indie EPs that first spread the word about Krol: 2011's I Hate Jazz (a pretty rock & roll sentiment if you think about it) and 2013's Trust Fund. The I Hate Jazz tracks are engagingly sloppy, most charging ahead with more passion but precision, but winning the day with their catchy minimalist melodies and snarky humor (and "A Million Times" threatens to live up to its titular boast regarding repeating three chords before Krol has the good sense to pull the plug). The material on Trust Fund is a bit more polished, but by no yardstick slick, though Krol got better at throwing simple but hummable pop hooks into his tunes, and "Locker" should have been a hit in some alternate teenage universe. The unreleased demos and outtakes that close out this set often sound like the cast-offs they are, but they also demonstrate that the fun of Krol's first EPs was no fluke, and that he had plenty more good ideas up his sleeve (as he would demonstrate on 2015's Turkey). Mike Krol Is Never Dead: The First Two Records is a splendid introduction to a low-budget rock & roll hero who deserves to be heard by anyone who believes the music has always been best served by kids with big ideas and cheap guitars.

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