I was one of the lucky ones who got to see Kurt Vile live at Vicar Street late last year. If you’ve heard his most recent record, Bottle It In, you might get the impression that he’s pretty laid back. That wasn’t the case on the night however. Vile was relentless during his set, tearing from one song to the next, mixing his many records together. While Bottle It In is pretty chilled out in truth, Childish Prodigy, his third record, is full of life.
Childish Prodigy for me is the record where he said “okay, this is the one I give everything.” Before Childish Prodigy were two records that in all honesty are hard to listen to. Here however, he finds the sound that we now love.
That sound swings open the cage door it’s been trapped behind and comes flying at you in the form of “Hunchback”. The song’s steady raw sound finally gives Vile the platform to create his new persona. He takes full advantage by giving us one of his cryptic stories, rambling on about a fish, perhaps describing how he’s been cast aside by a former lover. “Dead Alive” puts extra focus on the lyrics by peeling back the band, leaving Vile to reminisce about the traditional formalities of love. He seems to be confused by how his methods may now he seen as outdated:
You telling me a good man is hard to find
Well, what are you blind?
Well, never mind, let’s try and have a good time
Following those lyrics up later with:
Call me old dog when I’m gone, but when I’m back, it’s always
Old man, where you been so long, where you been so long, where you been so long?
“Freak Train” is anther one of Vile’s lyrically laid back tracks that you sometimes have to wonder about. For reclessreviews, it’s a song about being an impostor, about not caring; except that those ideas actually become the song. Hey, perhaps Vile even had imposter syndrome at the time, though now I think he can sing happily in the comfort that he is in fact a great artist. “Blackberry Song”, much like “Overnite Religion”, is bare and beautiful. It’s just 3 verses but it remains intimate, showing Vile’s softer side throughout.
That being said, these lyrics from “Monkey” might just top “Blackberry Song”:
The other night you were away
I missed you so bad
I found me doing something
Desperate, I was so sad
I swear I held my own hand
Pretending it was yours
While “Heart Attack” is a track I could take or leave, “Amplifier” introduces the sax for a nice and surprising twist. Instead of becoming a song where Vile carries the same sound straight through, the sax breaks it up and puts a fresh spin on it. “Inside Looking Out” is a song that sounds like it’s on the cusp of exploding for almost 7 minutes. Instead, it’s another lyric wandering by Vile and in truth, I have no idea what the song’s supposed to mean. Childish Prodigy closes with the bonus track “He’s Alright”, an acoustic number that’s also open to interpretation.
The closing line of Childish Prodigy probably sums up Vile’s feelings on what he thinks of others opinions on his music, or at least that’s a guess based on hearing his first three records.
Oh, but I don’t care. Yeah