These Vile Times
Kurt Vile – is that a rock (and roll) name or what? That’s a name that jumps out at you, shirtless and sweaty in black leather pants. It’s a name befitting a member of The Dead Boys or The Germs, one that raises loud and rude expectations; a name you’d expect to smoke up all yer cigarettes and barf all over yer shoes as a way of saying thank you. Also – Smoke Ring For My Halo — what a great rock (and roll) elpee title! Johnny Thunders, don”t you wonder why he never made a record with a title like that? A title like Smoke Ring For My Halo sez “I’m not gonna hurt you, but yer probably get hurt” or “The patina on my soul dulls its shine to a glow.”
You might be disappointed if you picked up this elpee up on the aforementioned expectations, for Kurt Vile is no old school punk. He doesn’t hurl his considerable gut-full-o’-bile at you. He chooses to choke it down, letting you know about it through passive Lou Reed-ish mumbles and mutters. There is a sense of uncertainty and dissatisfaction in these songs (most sharply felt in tracks like “Puppet To The Man” and “Society Is My Friend”) that resonate with particular clarity in these uncertain times, but this is no protest record.
I spent last week with the new elpee from The Dropkick Murphys, a record that jumps up on its feet and spits in the face of injustice, the sort of stuff that pumps you up on the way to a protest rally. In contrast, Vile’s response to injustice is more like a wearily-raised middle finger and the stink-eye, like when you’ve spent all yer outrage and a finger is about all you’ve got left to muster. The majority of these jams run with barbiturate pacing, but with hooks that reveal Vile’s obviously deep, mature understanding of primal guitar-driven rock music.