Album reviewsMusic

Kurt Vile: b’lieve i’m goin down – Album of the Week

14 October, 2015 — by Leon Barton0

Kurt Vile b'lieve i'm goin down

Vile’s previous album Wakin on a Pretty Daze was only the second album review I had ever written, the first being for The Strokes’ Comedown Machine. Writing about the Strokes album was like an audition piece when Methods man Christopher was looking for other writers to join him on now defunct music site Right Track Wrong Speed.

I quite fancied myself as a music critic (still do in fact… even if no-one else does) so had a go, but to be honest I struggled with it. I think the main problem was that I had no idea where Julian Casablancas was coming from. I loved the first couple of Strokes albums, when I could feel their togetherness and ambition, their ‘band as a gang’ mentality, but several less good albums down the line I found myself wondering what motivated the man who had taken the Strokes and virtually turned it into a solo act. I couldn’t work it out at all. I was questioning whether I could do it, whether I was capable of being a music critic. I mean, me and Casablancas are exactly the same age (both born in ’78) and yet I couldn’t relate to him or his music anymore. I suppose, when you look into his life a bit, it’s not too surprising; I don’t know anyone who was sent to a boarding school on a different continent or whose mother was Miss Denmark in 1965. Seriously.

I managed to extract a few words, but it really was the proverbial ‘blood from a stone’ job. So it came as something of a relief then, that reviewing Vile’s album was much more like stroking a cat the right way. I can do this after all.

Vile’s lyrics are infused with a sense of the pull between family and the life of a free spirited rock ‘n’ roll star. Wakin’on a pretty Daze’s stand out song for me was ‘Too Hard’, a humorous and moving take on the responsibilities of fatherhood. As someone with a 10 month old baby boy at home, upon first hearing it, tears welled up in my eyes and shivers ran the length of my spine. I guess the tiredness from all the restless nights might have been part of it, but hey…

kurt vile smiling
Kurt Nice

It’s not just the lyrics. Vile’s music seems to straddle three strands, all of which I too am a big fan of. First, the American alternative rock of Pavement, Dinosaur Jr. and the Meat Puppets. Second, the more esoteric side of the British folk revival: Bert Jansch, John Martyn et al. And third, the classic North American ‘loose rock’ of Tom Petty and Neil Young.

One part of this triple-headed strand can move to the fore at certain times (2011’s excellent Smoke Ring for my Halo ratchets up the folkiness) but all three are a constant.

b’lieve i’m goin down leans a little more towards the classic rock side, but having said that it doesn’t particularly deviate from his previous work either, which if you ask me is no bad thing at all. Call me conservative, but I really don’t want Kurt Vile to go all experimental – I have no interest in hearing him team up with a techno producer.

As if to emphasise the point Wakin opened with “Wakin in the Dawn of Day, I gotta think about what I wanna say”, while b’lieve opener ‘Pretty Pimpin’, starts ‘I woke up this morning, didn’t recognise the man in the mirror.” Quiet, hazy contemplation is Vile’s stock in trade. As a fellow 30-something father, confused and bemused by the bigger picture, but finding an outlet through a love of music, it feels like Vile is a kindred spirit.

I’ve been a bit ill in the last week (nothing serious, just a bit of a cold, but if you want to send me flowers that’s cool) and listening to b’lieve i’m goin down has been like eating comfort food in bed. There’s a warmth to Vile’s music, a feeling he imparts that however hard things get, you are not on this journey alone and all you can really do is suck it up and smile.

Like the man himself sings on possibly the best song on the album, “That’s life tho (almost hate to say it).”

Check out all the latest music releases in our new album reviews section, including El Vy’s debut Return to the Moon.

Kurt Vile - b'lieve I'm goin down

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