A lengthy ride, but ultimately a satisfying one...

After last year’s collaboration with Courtney Barnett, ‘Lotta Sea Lice’, here we have an album about, among other things, journeys, contingencies, aviophobia and family. It’s delivered with instinctive playfulness, the lyrics rolling off Kurt Vile’s loose tongue with ease.

On ‘Bassackwards’, he seems to be channelling Jonathan Richman at his most whimsical. As he sings on ‘Hysteria, “the devil’s in the details”, and there’s a lot going on.

It all sometimes feels a bit cloying, though unlike the results of, say, “I’m gonna write a 10-minute epic”, the songs sound almost autonomous, organic, and sprawl out unearnestly. It’s usually not good to be a one-trick pony, and ‘One Trick Ponies’ isn’t a highlight. But the album’s diversity, the way the playful is offset by the slightly plaintive, is one of its strengths.

‘Mutinies’ (featuring Kim Gordon on guitar), ‘Cold Was The Wind’ and ‘Rollin With The Flow’ are all richly evocative. “How’s it going?” blurts Vile at the opening of the latter. Such remarks – “woos” excepted – endear Vile, ever the Cool Dad, to the listener and take the edge off what could be a bit self-important.

Jeez, it’s long, and there are some missteps, some ill-advised detours, along his peregrinations, but all in all, it’s worth coming along for the ride.

7/10

Dig This? Dig Deeper! The War On Drugs, Steve Gunn, Sonic Youth

Words: Wilf Skinner

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