By Lauren Sloss | October 26th, 2010
The first time I heard Kurt Vile just about a year ago, my first thought was “Damn, that’s nasty. In a good way.” In a “smoked a pack of cigarettes, drank a fifth of Jack, and swaggered up to the mic for the best set you’ve ever seen” kind of way. It’s raw, it’s dirty, it’s rock ‘n’ roll the way it’s meant to be. It should inspire you to put on motorcycle boots.
Kurt Vile is the guitar player for The War on Drugs, and Childish Prodigy is his second solo effort. Vile maintains hints of The War on Drug’s 60s pseudo-psychedelic garage band feel, but injects it with a hit of dirty blues, Philly style. Having lived in Philadelphia for a time, I can attest that Vile’s raw, raging style is fitting to a city of industrial skeletons, upward mobility, and an occasional inferiority complex to its northern neighbor, New York. His skeletal, long-haired presence fits his music and his hometown in a way that proves how inextricable one is from the other.
Childish Prodigy is an excellent showcase of Vile’s unique and layered sound – his voice hits you in the jugular, his guitar playing is complex and tight, his compositions cohesive and utterly unpredictable. In “Overnight Religion,” he lulls the listener into meditation, repeating riffs under a lilting chorus, hinting at an Eastern chant without losing the growl to his voice.
“Dead Alive” could be spoken poetry over a guitar riff: Vile emulates Lou Reed as he chants, “You telling me a good man is hard to find, well, what are you blind?” “Freak Train” opens with a bass guitar’s interpretation of train’s rolling rhythm, driven by the twanging persistence of Vile’s guitar, erupting with a yelp of his voice into an increasing frenzy of harmonies.
But no track does it for me quite like the album’s opener, “Hunchback.” Pounding keys accentuate Vile’s raging guitar and gutteral voice, and a tambourine joins in to get you shaking. In short: it’s sexy as hell. It’ll have you growling in no time.