REVIEW: Kurt Vile – B’Lieve I’m Goin’ Down



2.5 OUT OF 5 NUTS!

kurtvile-blieveIf you’ve heard a Kurt Vile record before, you kind of know what you’re in for: Multi-layered and complex guitar lines married to “hippie/outlaw” lyrics. On that front, his latest delivers in spades. Vile has pretty much perfected the mid-tempo, stream-of-consciousness folk-rock song (as shown in the opening track “Pretty Pimpin'” and the banjo-driven “I’m an Outlaw” ). The main problem, and the reason this album fails to attain “great” (or even very good) status, is that Vile keeps writing these opening tracks over and over again.

There may be some interesting percussion here and there (as in the closing number “Wild Imagination”), but most of this album ultimately settles into the same loose, meandering groove. It sort of reminds me of what people used to say about the Ramones: “They have one song, but it’s a hell of a song.”

Kurt Vile, on the strength of this album, has one song, and it’s kind of boring. This, of course, is when Vile isn’t playing one of his endless sparse acoustic ballads. The middle of the album is filled with these kind of tracks, such as the semi-agonizing “All in a Daze Work.” Maybe Leonard Cohen can get away with a series of 6-minute acoustic poems, because the guy is a bona fide poet. Vile doesn’t have Cohen’s lyrical gift (note the shitty pun of the aforementioned track), and he certainly doesn’t have enough interesting ideas to warrant only an acoustic guitar (albeit an extremely well-played one) as accompaniment.

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I will say that I have been a fan of Vile’s in the past (“Jesus Fever” is one of the best singles of the 2000’s, period), and the guy knows his way around a guitar. The quality of his playing has never been in dispute. I just sort of wish he did something with it that I found the least bit interesting. This album is missing a flat-out “rocker.” Anyone who has seen Kurt Vile live knows the dude can absolutely wail, creating such interesting tones and textures for his concert audience. If even a fraction of that energy was evident on this record, I think we’d really have something there.

Release Date: Sept. 25, 2015

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One comment on “REVIEW: Kurt Vile – B’Lieve I’m Goin’ Down
  1. I have to give this one a listen. This review among all the critical praise really interests me. I was in the same boat with St. Vincent’s last self titled and Grizzly Bear’s Shields and a lot of people loved them.

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