Boston rockers Krill may only be on their third album, but they have an ever-expanding cult following that trails them with unflinching devotion. For them, Krill’s music is modern medicine. Following the semi-concept EP Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts into Tears, the band that loves poop jokes is moving on to embrace life’s uncertainties on A Distant Fist Unclenching.
They’re serving another round of questions on existentialism and anxiety, but this time Krill aren’t expecting answers. They’ve learned to let go of whatever trivial consolation those hold. With a comical shrug, the trio explore self-love, self-hate, and the ambiguous meaning of self-worth through a lens of rejection.
A Distant Fist Unclenching uses rock as a vehicle for storytelling, and more often than not it grapples with mental illness. On “Brain Problem”, jittery tempos whip dramatic guitar lines in circles, rocketing forward with the band’s trademark fury thanks to Ian Becker’s drumming. “God grant me strength to know what is a brain problem and what is just me,” sings bassist Jonah Furman, later adding, “And I know just ’cause it’s not getting better now doesn’t mean it won’t.” He sings with a carelessness that becomes inherently sad, the tone of someone so burnt out from over-thinking that any and all conclusions ring futile. As closer “It Ends” comes in right after, Krill sound exhausted, and rightfully so. They have just run through so many philosophical conversations veiled in Twitter jargon that depression, anxiety, and panic attacks only add to the weight.
The album’s peak comes when Krill resolve to make peace with life’s bitter irony on “Tiger”, a sprawling seven-minute number about overcoming anxiety. “I had a bad day, but at least it’s ending,” Furman sings, telling the story of a villager who is eaten by a tiger despite being “well-liked.” Like the beloved subject at hand, the song rolls back and forth, pulsing with warped bass and slippery guitar arpeggios that cushion Furman’s words until the drums collide violently. If the suddenness of a panic attack could make a sound, this would be it. Furman’s bass wobbles beside his lyrics about the ups and downs of the day. It all feels dizzying yet familiar. Then the three pummel noise straight into the speakers, a final salute before forking over self-control and sinking into the darkness.
Labeling Krill as “slacker rock” would overlook their bizarre mix. There’s post-rock, prog rock, and indie rock in here, a fascinating balance of the shambolic and psychotic; being able to make it appear casual speaks to the strength of their songwriting. And Furman’s voice is its own creature. It’s comparable to Ought frontman Tim Beeler’s odd warbling and a Muppet’s playful absurdities, often sounding like a joke on the listener and, in a sad way, himself. There’s an ever-present sigh of hopelessness rammed into the heart of his voice, but somehow it keeps pumping. The absurd Krill dialect goes on.
In that sense, they echo Titus Andronicus. Krill rally up the youth with a string of mundane words written to be yelled back at them. But instead of Titus Andronicus’ pure rock ‘n’ roll call for losers, Krill use strange, discordant rock to excite the outcasts. On “Foot”, Furman bursts with scrappy yells about boredom and the inevitability of moving, his voice cracking like Patrick Stickles’. Both Krill and Titus are bands who fall asleep with a frown but create a community for “rejects” as soon as they wake up.
A Distant Fist Unclenching is Krill’s oddball medium between the poppy joy of Alam No Hris and the table-flipping hopelessness of Lucky Leaves. They’re passive aggressive toward themselves, but with the Dostoevsky-inspired “Torturer” and role-playing as God on “Fly”, they’re making peace with the past and allowing themselves to reflect. This is a band that has found its footing. They meditate on rejection with hyper-aware indifference, a confidence old and new fans alike can welcome warmly.
Essential Tracks: “Foot”, “Tiger”, and “Brain Problem”