Kurt Vile: “Childish Prodigy”

Very taken with this one at the moment. Kurt Vile – real name, apparently – is from Philadelphia, and seems to be emerging as my favourite of the current wave of new lo-fi/garage rock auteurs, possibly because he’s the one who appears to be unafraid of cranking out some pretty fierce, relatively orthodox rock’n’roll, amidst all the warped vibes.

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Very taken with this one at the moment. Kurt Vile – real name, apparently – is from Philadelphia, and seems to be emerging as my favourite of the current wave of new lo-fi/garage rock auteurs, possibly because he’s the one who appears to be unafraid of cranking out some pretty fierce, relatively orthodox rock’n’roll, amidst all the warped vibes.



I can’t pretend to have kept up with all of Vile’s releases before this Matador debut, “Childish Prodigy”, but I do know he is/was guitarist in The War On Drugs, a band, much loved by my boss, that played Club Uncut about a year ago. The War On Drugs are typically described as melding classic, Dylanish guts with a kind of pulsating dronerock, which sounds nice on paper, though they’ve never quite worked for me.

“Childish Prodigy”, however, pulls a comparable trick in the way it mixes fraught, bluesy garage rock with some rugged classicism (I keep reading mentions of Tom Petty and Bob Seger, though I have to say I’m not enough of an expert on those two to say whether this makes sense or not), then treats them to some soupy, ethereal effects. If Ariel Pink turned his attention to misremembering/transforming more rocking ‘70s radio fare than he usually favours, maybe that would be a decent reference point.

Other comparisons I keep coming back to include the ragged, blasting blues of Entrance, Roky Erickson and, on the weirdly gleaming, looping likes of “Overnite Religion” and “Blackberry Song”, Lindsey Buckingham. Vile soaks himself in echo and generally sounds pretty fried, especially on the beatless, woozy reveries like “Dead Alive” and the beautiful, though still spiky “Heart Attack”.

But part of “Childish Prodigy”’s potency is how these drifting, folkish pieces fit so seamlessly alongside rackety, borderline unhinged garage jams like the pretty self-explanatory “Freak Train”, which stretches a runaway chug, over seven minutes, into a trance-out that borders on the hallucinatory. Or how Vile has the rare taste to dig out that old Dim Stars record (a short-lived band featuring Richard Hell, Thurston Moore, Steve Shelley, Don Fleming and, Wikipedia alleges, Robert Quine, though I can’t remember that detail personally; it’s been a while) and cover the terrific downtown power-pop “Monkey”.

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