Kurt Vile - Wakin On A Pretty Daze
Enjoy the vast scenery, just don’t expect many landmarks
Strangely enough for an album distinctly unconcerned with immediacy, the strengths and weaknesses of Wakin On A Pretty Daze are encapsulated within its opener, ‘Wakin On A Pretty Day’. A lazy, bucolic, summer haze-conceived mid-tempo strum punctuated by a knotty acoustic guitar motif, its first half is full of beauty and promise, but the rest is mired in senseless repetition and indulgent Crazy Horse guitar-soloing. After an exasperatingly casual nine-and-a-half minutes, you’re wondering how Vile – bestowed by his parents with a name that didn’t leave him much choice but to become a long-haired stoner-rock dude when he grew up – manages to maintain interest, let alone expects anyone else to.
If the Philadelphian felt compelled to capitalise on the relative profile boost earned by his last album Smoke Ring For My Halo – with it conclusively tying-off the first phase of his career, which was spent churning out CD-Rs of lo-fi self-recordings – then it doesn’t show much here. In the itchy-fingered MP3 shuffle age, there is much to be said for an artist who challenges withering attention spans. But it’s only an exceptional singer-songwriter (and even Neil Young could be a much more ruthless self-editor) that can do strung-out, chorus-fearing cosmic jams and not risk boring listeners senseless.
‘Was All Talk’, like several tracks, establishes itself strongly with a Krautrock-y loping beat, water-drop atmospherics, effects-vaporised acoustic guitar jangle and Vile intoning in his drawly way about nothing too particular, then proceeds to spend nearly eight minutes going nowhere. ‘Too Hard’ floats endlessly in a sighing slide-guitar rippled, reverb-washed two-chord ocean, with nary a wishful cry of ‘chorus ho!’ from the crow’s nest.
‘Shame Chamber’ – one of just three numbers clocking in at less than five minutes – is the best thing here: a purposefully twanging bluesy number with an ear-worm hook and soul-bearing lyric about the torment of guilt, ending in a repeated echoey yelp – part pain, part relief. But too much else finds Vile dispassionately promoting form over content and the general over the specific. Enjoy the vast scenery, just don’t expect many landmarks.