b’lieve i’m goin’ down…
It’s been an astonishing run from the (still) young Kurt Vile. The association with The War on Drugs still lingers in the mind of fans even though he’s been up and running on his own for some time now, b’lieve is his sixth album – there are EPs and bonus discs and b-sides too…and what is feeling (already) like a golden run just continues.
Waking On A Pretty Daze felt like the best Kurt Vile album when it was released, and as soon as I was sure that I was sure of that I realised how silly it is to pick favourite with a guy still maturing, developing, growing. Each album arrives, fully formed, standing on its own. And offering up more of the same – but always different. And that’s the case with b’lieve.
Here the voice – where previously it was all nonchalant Lou Reed/David Kilgour – sounds finally, definitely his own. He’s grown (right) into it now. And though I miss those languid, liquid guitar runs and the loping, lovely jam-passages from both Waking and Smoke Ring b’lieve is its own beat. More of a “solo” album in feel and structure and sound.
We get some of the greats of American letters invoked (Cormac McCarthy/Flannery O’Connor) on dusty mini-epics like I’m An Outlaw and Life Like This.
We get a taste of Vile going widescreen on Wheelhouse and then with added pop-bounce on Lost My Head There. He starts to head towards one of Steve Earle’s (Guitar) towns on Stand Inside. Vile is an idiosyncratic artist. This generation’s Neil Young in many ways, not least because he’s just as likely to club any tune over the head with a guitar or guide it gently via soft, rippling piano. He’s intriguing and thoughtful and genres seem completely irrelevant to him – the daft wee instrumental, Bad Omens, keeps feeling like it might turn into a song; a proper song. It’s all the better for the fact that it doesn’t, slowly coasting along, enjoying the ride as it hitches up alongside the muse.
Vile and his songs and song-ideas can go anywhere. And b’lieve i’m goin’ down is his latest showcase for that skill and for some really great songs.
There’ll be a new album soon – or an EP or something – because he’s been prolific so far. Or if there’s a big break after this album there’s still plenty to work back through and enjoy. He’s a class act. And every time he releases an album it feels like his very best. There’s not many, particularly in this day and age, you can say that about. Even fewer where you can say that and it actually counts for something, means something.