i will now tell you a few things about kurt vile. first, yes that is his birth name. second, his vocals (and appropriately, his looks) sound like a hybrid of bob seger and bob dylan. lastly, and most importantly, his music sounds like lo-fi psychedelic folk-rock lost in the 1970s. so know you what you’re in for.
in the station’s preview rack you will find his new LP titled childish prodigy. it was released on october 6th by matador records. this is kurt vile’s first “proper” studio produced LP and according to him its the album he’s been saving for years, waiting for the right label to release it. he has released two bedroom recorded collections of tunes, 2008’s constant hitmaker (no irony in that title) and god is saying this to you… released earlier this year on possible “label of the year” woodsist.
so about the new LP childish prodigy: it is not the masterpiece this guy is capable of, but it is definitely good. while it certainly features a robust production touch and offers more consistency than vile’s first two jaunts, i can’t say there is anything on “childish prodigy” as immediately gratifying as the best songs on his previous works. tunes like “freeway”, “slow talkers”, and “space forklift” on constant hitmaker ooze with talent and vision. “my sympathy” and “my best friends (don’t even pass this way)” on god is saying this to you… will pluck your heart strings. these songs are vile’s most charming, creative tunes. that is not to say there are not some brilliant tunes on the new one, they just are not as spontaneous and prodigious (ironically).
so childish prodigy opens with “hunchback”, a tune that sounds like a tom petty b-side that got a little too “weird”. “freak train” is a bona-fide folk-rock jam showcasing his band’s ability (the terrifically named “violators”) to tear it up. “blackberry song” is a fingerpickin’ gem with gorgeous twin guitar lines. it is absolutely mesmerizing. so is “heart attack”, another folk-y ballad that could be called “dylan-esque” if it showed any kind of restraint. instead vile gets dramatic and it is exciting. “dead alive” might be my favorite track just because of the terrific opening line “you tellin’ me a good man is hard to find/but what are ya blind?” he continues to get more and more ridiculous with his lyrics until he peaks with the line, “better take a breather ’till you stop sweatin’ and knit me a sweater”. that is the kind of spontaneity that makes vile a unique talent. final verdict: play this album on your show.
here is a fairly accurate pitchfork review of childish prodigy.
here is “freak train” performed at SXSW