08 April 2013
Kurt Vile’s fifth solo album ‘Wakin On A Pretty Daze’ follows on from the well over-due success of 2011’s introspective and emotionally fragile ‘Smoke Ring For My Halo’, an album that, to me at least, sounded like Neil Young’s ‘After the Gold Rush’ that had gone through the spinner; dispensing of Young’s naivety and picking up thoroughly modern anxieties that concern and inform a 21st century audience. It was a born classic. For the follow up Vile and his would be Crazy Horse backing band The Violators have drafted in help from members of LA’s darlings Warpaint.
Opener ‘Wakin On A Pretty Day’ is all sun-dappled throwback west coast Americana, pinned by a simple acoustic chord progression that rolls and unfurls at its own unhurried pace. Clocking in over 9 minutes it betrays Vile’s languid approach to song writing: deliberately measured and loose. It’s an inherent contradiction in his work that, despite being restlessly prolific, his songs are never impetuous or forced, rather coming across as effortlessly relaxed in their inception. ‘KV Crimes’ nods to the likes of Creedence and Tom Petty; a cowbell stomp that allows for some restrained but effective electric guitar solos. Although welcome it’s not quite rocking out to the same extent that he once did with his tenure in psychedelic Heartland kraut-rockers The War on Drugs. One imagines there’s a fear of surplus to Vile’s modus operandi; a phobia of over cooking his music, as if having too many ideas at play at any one time would serve to distract and distill the essence.
‘Was All Talk’ begins with a programmed motorik beat which gives suitable thrust for the exploration of every single possible wrinkle in what is, at heart, an incredibly simple chord sequence. It’s this restless, almost scientific, perfectionist approach that is at utter odds with Vile’s external lackadaisical veneer. ‘Girl Called Alex’ provides a more pensive moment with Vile’s laconic murmuring picking apart a relationship from an outsider’s perspective.
The 8 minute drift of ‘Too Hard’ is the most personal and confessional moment of the album as Vile, reflecting on his fatherhood, intones “I promise not to smoke too much, I promise not to party too hard”. This intimacy is juxtaposed with the up-tempo mid paced alt rock of ‘Shame Chamber’ and ‘Snowflakes are Dancing’. ‘Goldtone’ is a fitting closure, a dreamlike ballad that ebbs and flows to the horizon on washes of languorous organ and slide guitar.
Whereas previous albums have been introverted ‘Wakin On A Pretty Daze’ is Vile at his most assured and confident. At times this boldness is a mixed blessing since, at 70 minutes, the album sometimes feels stretched beyond its means, as if navel-gazing for the mere sake of it. Vile’s music has never been in a rush, but this time a few more ideas would’ve been welcome.
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