Kurt Vile - Bottle It In

by Mark Moody Rating:8 Release Date:2018-10-12
Kurt Vile - Bottle It In
Kurt Vile - Bottle It In

Sam Cooke didn’t know much about his science book, and I certainly knew less about mine.  But I did have an experience with a carbon monoxide detector in the late 90’s I’d rather forget.  Apparently, these "older school" CO2 detectors had a filter in them that progressively turned black over time until an optical scanner let it know to sound the alarm.  This led to a middle of the night call to 911 from my cordless (not cellular mind you) phone in the cul-de-sac outside my house in my PJs.  The friendly firepeople folk with their “high-tech” gear assured me all was fine at the moment, but the filter had just built up levels over time to scream out enough’s enough.  Kurt Vile on his ten minutes forty-second title track to Bottle It In equates keeping things in so long, whether they be love or frustration, to turning the whites of your eyes black.  Even to the point of shedding a blackened tear.  So whether it’s a CO2 detector or the patron saint of no bother saying they’ve had enough, you’d better listen up fine people.   

Recorded over the past two and a half years in no less than six different studios, Vile’s latest album stretches thirteen tracks over eighty minutes.  And if you’re a fan of his longer songs, as you should be ‘Goldtone’ fans, we’ve got two crossing the ten-minute mark and plenty of others pushing well past five.  Given how it was recorded, it’s not surprising that Bottle It In isn’t exactly cohesive.  But there are treasures to be unearthed here and, though maybe subtle, boundaries being expanded by degrees.  Vile's not known for lightning-fast moves.  It's more about the reps, of which there are plenty here.

First off, if nothing else is taken from Bottle It In, having Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa on board pounding the toms for three tracks is worth celebrating unto itself.  She first appears on single ‘One Trick Ponies’ along with on-point harmony vocals from Farmer Dave Scher   Here Vile reveals he’s always had a “soft spot for repetition”.  Whether that is his secret formula for making what should be tedious stretched out tracks into something magical or not I’m not sure.  But if it’s in fact a one trick pony, it’s a pretty good damn trick.  Having Mozgawa paired with harpist Mary Lattimore turns the vibe-y title track into something sublime you wish would never end.  Though never boiling over, Vile lets us know he’s taking it all in to his own detriment.  Mozgawa last appears on the experimentally loopy ‘Cold Was the Wind’, keeping time against all pitted against her.  In the past few years where drummers have come to the fore, Mozgawa is in a class of her own.  

Elsewhere there is plenty more to revel in.  Hanging out a bit with John Prine has never done anybody wrong, and the speak/sing approach to ‘Bassackwards’ with its layered backward loops makes it infinitely interesting.  Vile’s barely veiled reference to the “long night unwatched by the sun” optimistically gives way to being reborn in the morning.  And if that’s his defense to boiling over, this ode to disorientation and displacement is as fine as any there are.  ‘Check Baby’ references back to the count-offs of ‘One Trick Ponies’ and has Vile’s best solo here and further laments “what a whale of a pickle we’re in”.  The amped-up banjo and brisk pacing of ‘Come Again’ make for a late album highlight and match the sprightliness of the earlier ‘Yeah Bones’.  

The countrypolitan cover of Silver Fox Charlie Rich's ‘Rollin’ With The Flow’ seems to disrupt the same.  And if the other longer track ‘Skinny Mini’, in spite of his best mush-mouthed Jagger take and patented whoops, doesn’t scale the heights of the title track that’s okay.  It does have a moment near the end where things might just boil over but don’t quite.  Vile may have that in him down the road, but we’re not there yet if ever.  He may just continue to bottle it in and clamp it down.  That seems to create great art in and of itself.  Even if it’s more an assemblage of parts than anything else, you certainly get his drift on Bottle It In during this current state of personal and political affairs.  If Vile’s only current reward is city-wide free parking on leadoff track ‘Loading Zones’, then sedan delivery is a damn fine job and it sure is hard to find.  We’ll just have to agree to settle on that for a while.               

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars
  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Solid review Mark. Vile's been kind of hit-or-miss for me, and this one falls in that latter half. I feel like he's gotten into this groove and won't venture out of it anymore. Should have probably named the album "One Trick Ponies" b/c that's what it feels like these days after these last few.

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