Kurt Vile, ‘Walkin On A Pretty Daze’ – Album Review
On ‘Was All Talk,’ the third track on Kurt Vile’s ‘Walkin On a Pretty Daze,’ his most high-profile release yet, the songwriter claims, “There was a time in my life when they thought I was all talk.” Depending on how you first heard about Philadelphia-based artist, there is a good chance that this rings true.
Vile has long been an artist whose reputation has preceded his music. He made his first lunge into the musical discussion in the ’90s as a teenager full of confidence, then as a member of The War on Drugs, before they reached their current level of success. Vile then slowly climbing the indie-label ladder until reaching Matador, which has given him the resources to achieve the potential he always knew he had. And though this work ethic and drive conflict with his long-haired looks and laid-back persona, neither his uphill battle to be heard nor his appearance affect ‘Walkin On A Pretty Daze,’ as it stands proudly on its own.
‘Was All Talk” also adds the lyric, “Making music is easy, watch me.” Kurt Vile does make it sound easy, as there is an effortlessness to his spoken-word-inspired delivery. The arrangements, though, are deceptively precise. While the urge is there to stamp Vile a throwback, particularly when you take into account the Velvet Underground’s influence, his success rests on his individuality and originality. Vile never sounds like Lou Reed or any other artists from the past. Rather, he sounds like Lou Reed born 30 years later, infusing poetry not with the language of books or philosophy or television’s reality, but with the feeling of the streets he walks, the people he encounters, the everyday world whose dirt-smudged surfaces he tries to wipe clean, using a sleeve that even dirtier.
Sticking with that image of walking through a city’s rough but familiar neighborhoods, Vile lets his songs drift down alleys and explore seldom-seen places: the space behind dumpsters, where some people sleep; the dim daytime bars, where the air is heavy with a stale, smokey scent; and seagull-covered playgrounds that, come dusk, seem as alive as at they do at recess. His mind guides us with honesty and reflection, his reality both universal and personal. Half of the tracks extend beyond the six-minute mark, moving with little urgency or drama. Vile lets them naturally unfold until they reach their logical goal.
In a sense, they mirror Vile’s career, and when he says “making music is easy,” it’s as if the songs had always existed and were merly waiting for him to discover them, rather than write them. They’re natural and organic and practically alive on their own.
And at it’s best, like the stream-of-consciousness bit of self-reflection and prayer that is ‘Too Hard’ and the sneering, confident, cool-as-hell pop spin ‘Never Run Away,’ Vile is even better than he is on his previous collections. ‘Walkin On A Pretty Daze’ is admirable as poetry, as guitar rock, as innovation, and as homage. As Vile does in these songs, the listener is able to settle into the music and find new rewards with each listen. It’s hard to imagine anyone doubting him again — or calling him “all talk.”