Review: Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down…

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Kurt Vile’s sixth full length album b’lieve i’m goin down… is a deeply introspective record, filled with fingerpicking guitar, storyteller twang and existential angst. Call it nu-blues, modern folk, indie riff-rock; who cares? This 12 track LP seamlessly combines the pitter-patter of everyday life with the absurd, and proves once again that Kurt’s genius belies the spaced-out stoner image he just can’t seem to escape. Don’t be fooled by his dopey eyes and dreamy drawl, Kurt’s music is poignant and hits home every time.

“I woke up this morning/ Didn’t recognise the man in the mirror” begins first song ‘Pretty Pimpin’, that describes Kurt’s existential confusion as he brushes his teeth over the bathroom sink. “But he was sporting all my clothes/ I gotta say pretty pimpin”. It is funny, pithy, and says it all. Full of spirit and wry humour, it sets the tone for the rest of the album. Slowing it down and adding some more twang, ‘I’m an Outlaw’ showcases the heavier side of Kurt’s heart, calling himself ‘An outlaw on the brink of imploding/Alone in the crowd on the corner”. It’s not all misanthropic despair though, and before long you’ll be grooving out to ‘Dust Bunnies’ as Kurt asks playfully, “What’s there to feel but totally whacked?”.

Compositionally, b’lieve i’m goin down… is more acoustically fashioned than his last studio album Walking On A Pretty Daze. Kurt trades in hazed-up reverb for banjo and piano, and 8-minute tracks for simple, and pensive melodies. In wistful song ‘Lost My Head There’, Kurt sings “Fell on some keys, and this song walked outta me”, but this is hard to believe. The songs are simple, but still well thought out. Each song is self assured, and a little stronger than usual. Tracks like ‘Stand Inside’ and ‘Wild Imagination’ expose the sad-boy Vile we’ve met before, while others are loveable for their tongue-in-cheek sentiment. It’s hard to not crack a smile as Kurt speculates “What’s the meaning of this song/ And what’s this piece of wood/ I don’t care it sounds so pretty” in his penultimate song ‘Just Kidding Around’.

A lot of b’lieve i’m goin down… reads like the plot of an Absurdist novel. Just like Camus, Vonnegut or Beckett, this album is about the absurdity of the human quest for purpose. For many people it would be exhausting to carry such existential weight, but not for Kurt. He’s a level-headed visionary. His existentialism is a huge relief in the way of living; he sits back and shrugs, “That’s Life Tho, (Almost Hate to say it)”.

b’lieve i’m goin down… is out now via Matador Records/Remote Control Records.

Rhosian Woolridge

 

Review by Rhosian Woolridge.