Saturday, 22 August 2015

Kurt Vile - b'lieve i'm goin down..., album review

Not Craig David

With an Americana take on Craig David’s 7 Days [not literally, c’mon], Kurt Vile has engaged me in a way that he hasn’t previously, despite the persistent accolades about his music. And I don’t literally mean just on this opener, Pretty Pimpin, from his latest album to be released in September, but the rest too, like second I’m an Outlaw which is a simple enough tune but enhanced by the dominant banjo. Third Dust Bunnies continues the straightforward songwriting – perhaps something about this plainness has been a barrier to me on previous listens of his previous, which I now need to revisit/reassess – but the simplicity is made interesting by the lyrics [You may think that it's funny now/That I got a headache like a shotback coffin dust bunnies/It's hard to see when it's all red/And all you hear are just white noises], the expressive talking vocal and basic organ notes of this song. Even more so next That’s Life Tho Almost Hate to Say which is a dour spoken narrative, but the storytelling and acoustic guitar playing embrace it in an atmospheric aural vista, and here I think of other stories – not in content – told in similar if more expansive musical soundscapes by Willy Vlautin.

Vile’s storytelling is, however, more introspective than the creation of a voice for various personas that is Vlautin’s brilliant focus. For example, the fifth track on this album Wheelhouse seems entirely personal:

Sometimes I talk too much but I gotta get it out
But I don’t wanna talk, I only wanna listen
My baby talks soft, my ears are always ringing now
Humming a sad song when I’m alone
But you gotta be alone to figure things out sometimes
Be alone, when even in a crowd of friends and not so
Sometimes of whom you just can’t distinguish but
Thank god for the former, yeah

Again, the spoken narrative is mesmerising as is the haunting guitar backdrop over the acoustic playing in the foreground. I’m less gripped by the rap-esque presentation of sixth Life Like This, but I can imagine the appeal to a ‘younger’ audience. All in a Daze Work returns us to the simplicity of talking over sweetly played/plucked acoustic guitar, and I am compelled to recall another precursor sound – which may seem odd – of The Incredible String Band.

This is a mature and memorable album, and I need to learn more about the journey to it.


  1. Great review, great album. I tried to get into his "Smoke Ring..." album bit it didn't stand out for me. I had "Walkin'....." on all last summer and it's definitely in my top 50 of all time. His new stuff sounds excellent and much more accessible. Would love to see him live but most gigs clash with term dates and involve long journeys! Keep up the good work Mike (new Monophonics track up on Spotify - sounds good)

    1. Thank you. I will be listening to some of the back catalogue and getting back on this. Interestingly, this album and previous are reviewed in the current edition of 'Uncut'.