For me, listening to Kurt Vile is like being stuck in the 1990s. His voice sounds like it never left that decade. Indeed, Vile himself looks like he never left that decade, reminding me of how I used to try and look when I was 15/16. And, let’s face it, his songs owe so much to grunge and that decade when slacker rock blossomed that it’s hard to understand how he has ever succeeded as a 21st Century artist. But succeeded he has and he is back with another gem of a record ‘Walkin on a Pretty Daze’.
I first stumbled upon Kurt Vile with his last release ‘Smoke Ring for my Halo’ and I fell in love with his work almost immediately. Perhaps that feeling of nostalgia or perhaps that it was clear the man could write a song or two. Heavily influenced by the likes of Dinosaur Jnr for sure but something different and fresh in this age of posing and posturing. ‘Walkin on a Pretty Daze’ then continues the slacker rock vibe but even from the title itself you know that there is going to be a warmer, sunnier feel to this record. And, indeed, it’s dreamy, sweet vibes seem to have been timed to perfection, as the first real signs of Spring appear in Edinburgh.
So what of Vile? Well, he mutters, mumbles and meanders his way from start to finish and in all honesty, this record really shouldn’t work. Yet it does. And it does in some style. It’s not just the great song writing but the delivery of certain aspects that make Vile so important. ‘To be frank, I’m fried but I don’t mind’ is practically forced from his mouth on 9 and a half minute opener ‘Walkin on a Pretty Daze’ and for most of this record Vile does indeed sound fried. However, I don’t mind because it works for him and it works for me.
And let’s talk about the album opener and title track. It’s pretty fucking brave to start an album with such a long, meandering tune. Not only is it long but it’s also the stand out track on the record yet, rather than detracting from the remainder of the album it sets the tone beautifully so whilst nothing actually reaches the brilliance of this track the whole record kind of floats by on, well, on a ‘pretty daze’ to be quite frank.
Vile really is an odd musician. Stuck in a Dinosaur Jnr world of scuzzy guitars and long hair he never really seems to connect with what should make a musician popular or an album good these days and yet everything is just right. It’s hard not to fall in love with his music even though there is something about it that feels lazy and lethargic. But then transport yourself back to the 1990s – if you are old enough to do so – that’s what made the decade special. That kind of relaxed vibe of organic growth in music. The whole slacker rock world was kind of based on an attitude of ‘maybe we’ll make some music, maybe we won’t’ and Vile and his music kind of feel like this. I imagine him just kind of floating along in his world, never really setting targets or having ambitions, things just kind of happening when he can be bothered, though I imagine the reality is quite different!
Anyways, Vile has produced another gem of a record that is well worth checking out if you have the time. And if you don’t have the time then make the time, when you can be bothered, there’s no rush.