[sic] Magazine

Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down …

Modern-day troubadour and confirmed grammar hater Kurt Vile is a musical sponge. Listen to any of his previous four LPs and you can tell he was bred on a diet of Tom Petty and Bob Seger. You know too of his love of Bob Dylan and Neil Young because you can hear it in his nasal storytelling and sepia song-writing. And, when he nabs soulful lyrics from Sam Cooke for his “Dust Bunnies” here, you know it’s done with nothing more than wry affection, the shoestring rock that follows coalescing magically and sprawling cat-like in the glare of Vile’s offhand genius. It’s no different on the deliciously unkempt lead single “Pretty Pimpin”. As Vile struggles with his identity in the mirror, downloading his thoughts into song form, he retreats musically to his FM heartland, bubbling some spidery Lynyrd Skynyrd chords around his lazy drawl and Warpaint‘s Stella Mozgawa’s steady drums.

Coincidentally, if b’lieve i’m goin down … feels a little all over the map as a consequence it was laid down in a number of different states. All the same, Vile is most at home when … at home. He’s not a rocker to throw TVs from hotel windows. b’lieve i’m goin down … was written at night after his wife and children had gone to bed. And, as such, and he says in the blissful “Stand Inside”, it’s just “me on my couch with my guitar”. Sat there he spins a yarn or two, jamming with himself and a four-track. His simple, honest love song is utterly convincing as a result. Another, “Wild Imagination”, just ticks along on his acoustic progressions and the percussion’s unobtrusive shuffle, Vile stumbling over his elongated vowels and tugging at the heart strings as he flicks through old pictures, wondering what might have been.

b’lieve i’m goin down … is a warts-and-all album about adulthood, specifically Vile’s adulthood, both amusing and sad, and one that steps back from the limelight when the temptation may have been to go stadium-sized, especially following his showier Wakin On A Pretty Daze. Less obviously sticking it to the man these days, “I’m An Outlaw” nevertheless doffs it cap with the introduction of old-time banjo. The pragmatic “Life Like This” adds piano and lapsteel as Vile wisely acknowledges that he’s “gotta roll with the punches”. His melancholy folk is therefore reflective and realist, dark when required, yet effortlessly pretty and full of lyrical delights that conjure the open road and kohl-eyed gypsies. A song may have meaning, the languid psyche-folk of “Wheelhouse”, for example, casts compassion and barbs in equal measure in the direction of religion, or conversely it may not. The seven-minute and tongue-in-cheek “Lost My Head There” is little more than an exercise in toe-tapping, bar-room funk minimalism about nothing much: “Picked up my microphone and started to sing/ … Fell on some keys and then this song walked out.”

As with Wakin On A Pretty Daze, a dose of considered bile could perhaps have helped enliven parts of the listen, and Vile does go on a bit (this is is his second LP on the trot to clock in over an hour and “Bad Omens” – the only song of twelve under four minutes – is an unnecessary but pleasant instrumental arrangement). He’s never going to sound like the finished article though and when you realise this you’ll take b’lieve i’m goin down … to heart for it’s another truly accomplished record with several standouts. What makes it next level, too, is that Vile is moving on. Smoke Ring For My Halo was his classic rock record. Wakin On A Pretty Daze was an album playing on the vagueness between the American dream and the American nightmare. b’lieve i’m goin down … is the real deal though, real life through and through: fractured, imperfect and loveable.

Best track: “Pretty Pimpin”

~ b’lieve i’m goin down … is released 25th September 2015 via Matador.~