Kurt Vile didn’t attend college. He didn’t have to. Instead, he pursued the primal instinct of “do you.” No post-secondary establishment could tell him how to express himself when he already knew: just say it. Why convolute your thought with opaque prose and careful syntax and diction when you can just say it like it is? While some people drink to remove their inhibitions, Kurt Vile has to remind himself what “inhibitions” means. Never have words and thoughts flown more unabated out of Vile than on his sprawling album b’lieve i’m goin down.
In Mr. Robot, I kept thinking Elliot would finally open up to his therapist. I was constantly waiting for him to talk so much that she gets annoyed and hears murmuring noises from him instead of disinterested words, just like he hears her. Vile has talked a lot throughout his past work. Now I’ve heard so much that I hear so little from Vile’s often rudimentary recountances. ‘b’lieve’ indicates that the days of succinct but memorable memoirs are gone. Every track feels like another attempt to provide space for his claustrophobic thoughts. The hooks in “Pretty Pimpin’” and “Dust Bunnies” are overlong, but they’re catchy. The best professor is not one who knows the most as much as it is the one who communicates the necessary knowledge. Vile may be knowledgeable about blue-collar ways and say the right things, but it’s not always memorable.
Vile’s work is always approachable, but seldom something worth lingering for. His lyrics, while pure and universally comprehensive, are generally uninspiring. Meandering through a day with Vile on b’lieve i’m goin down just isn’t that interesting. To be fair, a film that depicts 48 hours of uncut footage from my life wouldn’t be all that interesting either.
“That’s Life Tho (Almost Hate to Say)” is repetitive and sprawling with an undercurrent of rehearsed guitar strums sputtered with a few synths and ambient samples.
Vulnerable guitars are great, but “Life Like This” features guitars with more reverb than Vile’s own voice. The piano and wobbly distorted interjections are borderline uncharacteristic for Vile. Guitar parts at the halfway mark are more Ratatat than Vile. With variety accompanying his unbecoming, brisk vocal delivery comes with the promise that, despite the indecision permeating his musical victory, he also looks forward to dynamic musical endeavors and a life of creating music.
Vile’s thesis rarely floats by unrecognized. b’lieve i’m goin down contains the qualities that make Vile great, but it’s weighted by monotony. That which associates directly with his greatness. Vile’s future album, likely to be released within a few years, will undoubtedly be another tolerable, often solid, piece of agrarian musicianship. I just want to remember the waggon ride next time.
Recommended If You Like: Bob Dylan, The War on Drugs, Beck