You wake up in the morning and stand in front of your bathroom sink. You look in the mirror and don’t recognize who you see staring back at you. You forget what day of the week it is, laughing at yourself and your absentmindedness. Your reflection is a stranger, one whose teeth you brush and hair you don’t comb. You recognize your body from the clothes it has on, not for the mind inside. You question everything. You continue your life without identity or a solid sense of self.
Such is the narrative of Kurt Vile‘s “Pretty Pimpin,” the opening song and first single from his new album b’lieve i’m goin down. I have to admit I’ve listened to this song probably a hundred and fifty times since it came out two weeks ago, and I’m still digging into it like a heaping bucket of mama’s famous garlic tots (with ALL the trimmings). Something about Vile’s irreverent tone of voice (as he sings about the “stranger” in his mirror) is fascinating to me; he seems to be truly indifferent to his predicament. He knows he’s forgotten himself and he’s okay with it. He’s gotten used to it. He does it every day of the week.
Maybe I’m crazy, but my heart goes aflutter whenever Vile sings the word “Tuesday.” I know it’s not traditionally such an evocative word, but it gets me every time. I, too, forget what day of the week it is. It’s how he drags out the word until just before the snare hit, emphasizing his uncertainty without disrupting the song’s driving rhythmic pulse or the conversational nature of his singing. It’s very subtle. But it’s there. Every Tuesday.
But hey, there are plenty of tots in this bucket. He alternates between the third and first person, towing the line between himself and the “stranger” in the mirror. He switches from “man” to “boy” at the end of the song, as if reverting to a childhood version of himself. That part about being 1000 miles away? Probably relevant, can’t say for sure. But it’s definitely provocative. Dip it in ketchup and feed it to the dog, mama doesn’t mind! Even the video is poignant and revealing, with alternate versions of himself slowly surrounding him and his daily routine. Everything, really, is geared toward questioning identity and the perception of one’s self. Really makes you think, doesn’t it?
The rest of the album shares a similar introspective theme. “Life Like This” takes a more grounded approach, but still looks inward for inspiration. “Wild Imagination” is both literal and etherial, a patient, otherworldly endeavor. “I’m an Outlaw” is pretty straightforward: he’s an outlaw. But the same hypnotic, twangy energy drives them all forward, deeper into Vile’s enigmatic psyche. Very delicous, would highly recommend.
Kurt Vile is currently on tour, playing in New York tonight at Webster Hall. He’ll be in the US throughout October, Europe in November, and Australia in January. Check him out! Go do it right now!