Kurt Vile – B’lieve I’m Goin Down

To call Kurt Vile a slacker would be a little unkind. True, he wears that bedraggled look only a daysleeping stoner can, yet he’s not work-shy when it comes to albums. B’lieve it or not, b’lieve i’m goin down is Vile’s sixth in seven years. This time around things don’t feel like happy daze. The bleak song titles weigh heavy as Vile cuts through his inner fog.

The world weary troubadour is a part Vile was born to play and he plays it well, like a long-hair songsmith on the run, but it’s in that voice, that chilled-out twang of his, and the way he stretches out his vowels, like on “Pretty Pimpin”, “I woke up this morning and didn’t recognise the boy in the meeeror” with its cycling riff and down-tempo beat, that add weight to his words, where he sounds so fed up with life he forgets everything.

It’s easy to get swept along with Vile’s melodramas and the sympathetic country-tinged backing on the album, but it’s the whatever-gets-you-through-the-day resignation of “That’s Life Tho (Almost Hate To Say)”, that Vile sounds at ease with himself. It sets itself apart from something like “I’m An Outlaw” which fails to impress with its “I’m an outlaw on the verge of self-implosion” posturing. He might well be, but Vile is at his most convincing when he’s not hiding behind some idealized metaphor couched in a banjo-pickin’ country and western daydream.

Having found a sympathetic vein and mined it deep, the main drawback to the record is its length. 12 songs over an hour does wear you down, and Vile admits as much on “Wheelhouse”, “sometimes I talk too much, but I gotta get it out”. Without the jaunty piano and psychedelic fuzz of “Life Like This” to shake the mood, you might need to hit pause, go for a walk and come back, but you’d best not miss this one, as Vile springs to life, all upbeat and cocky — “If you wanna live a life like mine, you gotta roll with the punches”.

Kurt Vile on a downer might not be everyone’s idea of a good time but he wears it like a badge of pride and seems all the better for it. Like a songwriter fixated on the bumps in the road who happens to hit his stride on the other side.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆
Matador Records