For rockers like Mike Krol, leaving the safety of the garage can be a dangerous game. Beyond those thin aluminum walls is a world full of heartbreak and despair. On his latest record, Power Chords, Krol ventures outside, barking and biting his way through lost love with his signature fuzz, fists up the whole time.
Influenced by the likes of The Strokes and Ramones, the Wisconsin–born, West Coast garage rocker is four albums deep into his career. Power Chords finds him at his most focused yet: There’s no “Piano Shit” on this record, just 33 straight minutes of power–pop revival. His last album, Turkey, only hinted at Krol’s combative nature on songs like “Neighborhood Watch,” where he warned a bike thief that, “If I see you, I'm gonna take you to the ground/ And make you say my name.” But on Power Chords, Krol is all fisticuffs, channeling a broken heart into a barrage of heavy–hitting jams filled with scuzzy guitars and screaming melodies.
“I never understood the blues until the night I met you,” Krol monologues on the album’s opening track, setting the scene. “And everyday since, I’ve gotten better at guitar.” It’s an image of a lone man, heartbroken, strumming away in his room and vengefully writing songs to get back at his ex. Across the 11 tracks, Kroll directs angst towards his ex, but mostly, he battles with himself. He’s “staring in the mirror/Trying to pick a fight,” in “An Ambulance,” where he pleads that an ambulance be called in order to save him from his “self–offense.” On “Blue and Pink,” he wishes that the palm trees around him would “lean so far they break and crush me.” It’s songs like these that explain why Krol appears black–eyed and bloody–lipped on the album’s cover art.
However, other songs find Krol on the offense. “Don't come to my town/Word gets around/If I see you on the street/Then I'm gonna stare you down.” Krol’s nasally, fuzzed–out vocals declare on the non–stop neck–breaker “Little Drama.” Slowing things down to a 60’s style pace on “Wasted Memory,” Krol declares that his past relationship was simply nothing more than a mistake.
Obviously Krol has mixed feelings about this breakup as he constantly pendulums between vengeful and hopeless. What isn’t inconsistent, though, is the furious energy he brings to each track.
TL;DR — Should I listen to Power Chords?
This is a breakup album for the all the angsty fuzzheads out there. With DIY sonics and power–pop songwriting, Power Chords will appeal to most rock fans. It’s his strongest work to date, and Kroll has ultimately aligned himself with garage rock greats like Jay Reatard and King Tuff. But if you wear a Ramones t–shirt and don’t know any of their songs, stay away. This kind of fuzz is only for seasoned veterans.