I reluctantly put off giving my two cents about Kurt Vile’s B’lieve I’m Goin Down, because I’ve felt both protectively loyal to him and conflicted by what I’ve heard lately. But, in keeping with the style of my column, True Currency, I feel compelled to over-analyze, philosophize, dissect and project all of my human delusions onto pieces of music that have both influenced and irritated me.
My first impression of B’lieve was pretty sour. I didn’t like it. Lyrically, tracks like Dust Bunnies remind me of Neil Young’s Devil’s Sidewalk. Brutal.
Kurt Vile’s always had this kind of lazy, drawling quality, like he woke up from a dream and, half-asleep, tells you what he saw. While I always appreciated that before, this time it just seems a bit gimmick-y.
I loved the experimental play of Square Shells EP. 2009’s Childish Prodigy plays in my head constantly, even when I’m walking around without headphones. (Kurt did say it was his masterpiece, after all.)
But B’lieve I’m Goin Down kind of does sound like a declination. Too much money spent doing major label recordings and too much fawning from cum-shot publications like Rolling Stone Magazine.
This is the Emperor’s New Clothes, man! Pretty Pimpin? Are you fucking serious? Ah, maybe it’s all some tongue-in-cheek joke. But I feel like if something is going to be satire, it needs to be pulled off a bit better than this.
Alright, there are charming parts, like the diversity of the instruments and the beautiful licks, the way that the location of the recording (the Mojave desert) comes through in vibes, like on Wheelhouse.
Lost My Head There is a mash up of Billy Joel hokiness and ambient prettiness. The jam on the end is good to get lost in though, and you almost forget that you’re bitter and disappointed.
If I’m going to dig apart the lyrics, it sounds like Kurt is just doing drugs and trying to be a touring husband and father. But what the hell do I know about it. The pedestals we put musicians up on now are totally absurd. The barrage of Internet responsibilities, the way private lives of artists are strewn across the media in big smears of road-kill carnage, making major headlines like it’s World War IV…
Music has become a mélange of commercials and blow jobs. Somewhere in there is the sweet stuff, and that’s all I’m interested in.
Stand Inside is my favorite track on this album. The melodies are wistfully pretty and the song sounds less forced. Also there’s no banjo, thank god.
When I first put on B’Lieve I’m Goin Down, I was honestly kind of blue about it. Sometimes the artists we love put out mind-altering albums that seem to rip open the fabric of reality and sweep you away into spaces of timelessness, where everything you do suddenly seems more real than it did before, and every thought is more beautiful by extension of the songs you have in your head.
But then you want them to do it for you again, and again, and again. Only someone needs to be paid, deadlines need to be met, kids need to eat, and artists need to satisfy their own explorations, which should be allowed to include commercial failures and audience displeasure.
B’Lieve I’m Goin Down is an album that is being wholly praised, though, which is a positive thing for an artist wanting to succeed, and I think Kurt Vile deserves to succeed more than most of those philistine pop stars putting out atrocious piles of computerized feces.
Anyway, I’ve kept going back and re-listening to B’lieve I’m Goin Down, and it has revealed more to me, but not much. I’m waiting for the next album, I guess, with a mixed bag of emotions.