Review of Kurt Vile's album Childish Prodigy
Though Philadelphia's Kurt Vile will probably first and foremost be known as part of The War On Drugs (the band, not the concept!), his considerable charisma has meant his solo ventures have not gone unnoticed. After his second solo outing on 2008's Constant Hitmaker, Matador were quick to snap him up, citing in their press release that they'd 'either have to sign this guy or find someone else who sounded exactly like him.' Pretty strong words there, and listening to Childish Prodigy, it's easy to see why.
Brimming with atmosphere and confidence from the very start, Childish Prodigy shows Vile to be a bold and interesting songwriter. Whilst it can usually be chalked up as plain lazy to compare any man with a slide guitar to Neil Young, the grungey tinges on Childish Prodigy - particularly on the sleazy opener 'Hunchback' - recall the man himself. But it goes a little deeper than that: Vile's hardened persona and world-weary commentary give his modern lo-fi a strange, anachronistic twist, just like Dylan, The Stones, Young and all the other midnight ramblers before him.
Thankfully it never once strays into pastiche. Vile's balance of self-assuredness, fuzzy production and alt-rock leanings means that although some moments are nostalgically familiar, his unique personality is stamped all over Childish Prodigy. The highs and lows are memorable and varied, from the raucous 7 minute blues stomper 'Freak Train' to the bitter twist of 'Heart Attack' with its due warning, 'you better get your head re-screwed on.' Through the humming psychedelic haze of 'Unknown 2,' he leaves unnoticed through the back door and its then you realise just how much he was there in the first place.