Bottle It In: Kurt Vile tours his back-alley kingdom

Back allbottle-it-in-coverey cats crawl, miaoul and frazzle, hissing hard for a scrap where the down-on-their-luck fix to make tracks, leaving as quick as they got there, pound pavement by the miles, never realizing where they stand is where they might just be staying for a while, waiting for that deal to go down—as bad as they are ungrateful—spending another day-in-the-life running from something in particular to nowhere hidden, out-of-contact or just downright irregular; there’s just too many squares blocking around in this goshdarn fleamarket not to be recognized somewhere, not to catch a glance, hark it and remark it: “hey haven’t I seen or read or heard this before?” Wipe the dust and hide the glare, get lost in that look of the author, that distant eyed stare, or the guitarist, that wick wit’ flare—whether a cold scowl or a snarling grimace-growl, it’s all in them jowls—encircled by a vinyl-pressed halo, what a dude, what a goober, he’s a street angel, probably spent his early day hustling the corners, scouting for the best street angles.

You might think it’s age but really it’s taste right from bottle, wear worn right on jacket, sold faulty with the throttle. The record just lazes and only switches ‘twixt two gears, a fair few tracks just go ear-to-ear and others beckons you here, on the beanbag between the stereo to actually listen instead of leaving your attention in the smoke pillows, cloudwatching the shapes all-a-cannabisical, purple elephants don’t exist except in grayscale and we should refuse to believe that Kurt Vile hasn’t tried medical—he knows the good shit—but he’s a better breath inhaled from guitar to needle to speaker and there’s not a stress-filled day he can’t handle. And his latest effort is no different; just a man and his band and his guitar and some tunes ready to jam, stretch it out and digs his claws into the fuzzy warm carpet, waxing Hobbes to your Calvin.

Summer’s end is a theme among many but this released just as I was thinking when will this summer get bent before vinyl the on Bottle it In warps and bends? It’s happening I believe but these croyances have too much to grieve, too much nuances—Kurt’s never been about that, he’s always been simple:

Oh he’s spoken of beliefs going down, spoken of the smoke rung halos, been the slacker soundtrack coming in, decade too late; “where were you man?” Richard Linklater says, incredulous, “the movie’s done and wrapped, DVD boxset, Blu-Rays coming next.” Guess he didn’t get the memo: what’s the continent but not a bigger island? Cuz somehow Kurt Vile is stranded incognito, in an awkward phase between masterpieces still proving he’s a master too. To who? No one in particular, hazard a guess. Even he knows a record has a shelf-life, even he knows when a record is ripe for the flea market pickings. Just a shame he Jeff Beck’d it and made a record too good for the album art’s intent and purpose, no one’s going to secondhand this record ‘cuz no one should, not unless they’re desparate; it might not be his most astonishing but it is his most solid. Whether Blow by Blow or a Cry of Love, 462 Ocean Boulevard or a Wake of the Flood, a Moonflower or just plain Songs from the Wood, this record takes stock between them all—on the cusp of something great, but instead choosing to stay in a mood.

Not quite as eclectic as Walkin On a Pretty Daze or melancholic like Smoke Ring for My Halo, not as gung-ho as b’lieve I’m going down… or primeval as Childish Prodigy and everything that came before, Kurt Vile is in Mayertown—the mid-career-crisis—and he’s handling it well; he’s cooped up in the industrial parks, hiding out by the byways rather than making moves on mainstreet, looking for inspiration in the shape of oil on water, he has no one to answer to and, hell, he even says so:

I park for free”

He knows the parking officer routes like he knows the notes on his guitars—he can feel them even when they’re not there. But let’s be honest “Loading Zones” is just standard fare. So taking a leaf from Jimi’s book, Kurt decides forward can only be achieved backwards and whether by audio wizardry or just plain technical showboatery, blows out at ten-minute epic, “Bassackwards” perfect for lazing under the hot September sun, watching heat wiggle, warble, worm everything from the ground up and on. Along the whole cut Peter Katis has you second guessing if it’s a guitar riff layered in reverse or just an accordion-synth breathing hoarse and what bubbles to surface might be Mary Lattimore’s harp or buddy Bob Laakso’s bass or even Kurt’s voice, but what pops is Barbara Gruska’s kick drum and Kurt’s fingerpicking pace. Eventually, you won’t care to note, just to enjoy—the track alone is worth the admission price.

But it contains no important moments or career-shifts and it highlights no change in attitude or demeanor, meaning this Kurt Vile record won’t be considered his best; most people probably won’t remember it after the first press.

Maybe a few casual diehards and lackadaisical collectors, the common consumer clay of the industry, y’know, walking oxymorons, will have picked it up last minute at the record shop. But most? Most’ll be back at the old open air market, replete with crystal pendants and hand-stitched attire and some crazy old guy with wispy white hair, khaki shorts and stacks of old vinyl ready to be sold off for debts. No matter where, they should pick this record up, haggle it and take it home. They probably haven’t heard it in a while, haven’t listened to it for even longer—probably don’t remember all the things it could do to make ’em smile, close their eyes and dive; in the past or in the moment, Kurt Vile’s Violaters are playing to foment, there brewing a better record for later, but this long-player plays like the future never mattered.

Album Artist: Kurt Vile and the Violaters

Label: Matador

Producers: Kurt Vile, Rob Laakso, Rob Schnapp, Peter Katis and Shawn Everett

Genre: Blues Rock, Psychedelic Folk, Singer-Songwriter


  1. Loading Zones
  2. Hysteria
  3. Yeah Bones
  4. Bassackwards
  5. One Trick Ponies
  6. Rollin with the Flow
  7. Check Baby
  8. Bottle It In
  9. Mutinies
  10. Come Again
  11. Cold Was the Wind
  12. Skinny Mini
  13. (bottle back)


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About BenJamsToo

An insane man moonlighting as a respectable member of society from Portland, Oregon. A rock ‘n’ roller since his mother first spun The Police’s “Roxanne,” Ben is a lover of all things rock, soul, funk, jazz, blues, electronic and hip-hop. Perhaps it’s easier to list what he doesn’t like: most gangsta rap, country-western and modern metal disagrees with his stomach. Once upon a time, a friend told him to write about music. So he started doing that under the title of a Willie Bobo cover by Santana. Now he wonders about what Stu McKenzie has for breakfast, why John Congleton is the best damn record producer this side of the millennium and just how Common came to be his favourite hip-hop star. He’s been working on that last one for nearly a decade now. No answers yet.