Review Summary: Dig beneath Kurt Vile's lazy hazy exterior and there are myriad more complex joys on offer.
There’s an art to good slacking. To rising late and speaking little and eating more, to making it through days of sunshine and of rain with just enough purpose intact to ensure that this thing we euphemistically term Life is not simply bearable but even meaningful.
Philadelphian Kurt Vile understands this dichotomy between laziness and the effort needed to create works of artistic beauty. Here he’s granted us eleven tracks that could variously be described as easy-going, relaxed to the point of soporific and, yes, lazy. But the irony is that to truly understand and appreciate Vile’s compositions requires of the listener to lift off his own early Saturday morning coat of lugubrious slackerdom to concentrate on their compelling subtext. Vile is in reality anything but lazy, and he oh so charmingly demands the same effort from his audience.
Case in point is opener Wakin’ On a Pretty Day: ten minutes of acoustically unpropelled gentleness that would rather chase its own tail continuously than come to a conclusive end. Despite and maybe because of its indefinably slow nature, uncommon focus is required to see the song through to its end. Those who succeed will find those abstracted sly grooves and that slacker-in-his-pants-next-door voice begin to embed themselves in the ears and brain.
Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze isn’t doesn’t concern itself with taking you anywhere fast and it absolutely won’t be hurried. Girl Called Alex spends a good six minutes going nowhere in particular beautifully before descending back to earth with rare grace and poise. Nor are these songs easy to define in terms of their wider chronological context: I suppose Vile belongs to that mostly forgotten lineage of early 70s men with frets and sad calm souls and yet his lyrical themes are timelessly anachronistic, dealing with self and lost love and never-quite-was love.
To listen to Kurt Vile is to be transported to some kind of unidentified panacea where people move slowly and thoughts move slower, where actions are considered weighed up and mostly rejected and where albums are not rushed. Vile’s not just a slacker, you see, he’s a storyteller too and as such he understands better than those artists who belong temporally to our era that satisfaction does not lie in three minutes of wham bam thank you Ma’am. Too Hard builds with something almost approaching disinterest until Vile hits you with “Life is like a ball of beauty that makes you wanna just cry”, which coming from that voice sounds like the easiest line of poetry in the world until you begin to consider it upon which its absolute truth hits you and you feel tears pricking in your own eyes. Don’t accept Kurt Vile and Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze at facial or even cochleal value: give these songs several long, considered listens and they’ll lodge permanently in your heart.