#60: Slaves – Acts Of Fear And Love
Anyone who’s been watching Kurt Vile explore the experience of a man and his guitar for a while now can be forgiven for thinking, upon a listening of “Pretty Pimpin'”, “Oh, he’s found a beat, good for him.” Vile’s stock-in-trade has been hazy dissipation for some time now, through his solo debut Smoke Ring For My Halo and into his excessively sprawling, hazy-to-the-point-of-incoherence sophomore follow up Wakin On A Pretty Daze. On b’lieve i’m goin down… Vile snaps back into focus, like coming out of a particularly deep stoned reverie.
This isn’t to say that he’s lost the meandering quality. A number of songs on here – the ones that stretch out towards the seven minute mark, mainly – are strongly reminiscent of his work on the last album, where you start losing the plot around the four minute mark and you never really recover it. “That’s Life Tho (almost hate to say)” and “Lost My Head There” are the worst offenders of this sort, but they’re balanced off by the melodic success of tracks like “I’m An Outlaw”, “Dust Bunnies”, and “Bad Omens”. The album works on that careful balance the entire way, teetering between focused, song-oriented work and the hazy, lengthy jams he’s particularly known for. The song-oriented tracks are a nice break from the jams, which don’t run quite as overlong as they did on Wakin On A Pretty Daze, but come close.
Ultimately Kurt Vile is at his best when he’s mining out a Crazy Horse-esque pattern with languid, stoned vocals, and that’s precisely what’s on offer here. It can get a bit exhausting at times but there’s always something to draw you back in, especially if you wear your hair long and keep a baggie of herbal medicine in your bedside table.
Kurt Vile makes it all sound so easy, doesn’t he? He crafts the perfect laid-back stoner rock for laid-back stoner dudes, draping it in gorgeous, fleet-fingered guitar work that itself sounds like he’s spinning gold out of lounging back on his couch. The former guitarist for The War On Drugs has followed up 2011’s excellent Smoke Rings For My Halo with a sprawling album that revels in soulful, low-key lead guitar melodies that seem to echo on forever a la the best of Crazy Horse. The songs stretch out and find their own grooves; the effect is somewhat like watching the ambient light levels change through the curtains over the course of an afternoon spent relaxing by doing nothing much at all. The idea is not foreign to its creator: Vile told MTV that “the whole general thing is one long daze, and that’s waking up”. If you’re not in the right frame of mind, however, it can seem to outstay its welcome, and his head-back-staring-at-the-sky drawl can seem to blend together after a while. If you are in the right mood, however, it feels like the greatest open-air arena show that never wants to end. Interestingly enough, the incense-scented folks over at RYM have this album logged in as the best of 2013 so far – that alone necessitates a spin, doesn’t it?