Philly’s Kurt Vile is having a Good Friday with his major-label debut, “(watch my moves)” on Verve Records.
Not a lot of Philly musicians who make it big beyond our borders stay local. Jazmine Sullivan has. Four out of five (or more?) Hooters have, and at least one of The Roots is still here. Meek Mill has (Jersey counts). Lil Uzi Vert and Low Cut Connie’s Adam Weiner and The War on Drugs have. For our purposes, today, so has Kurt Vile, the slacker king, guitarist, vocalist, producer, songwriter and our rangy answer to ‘what if Neil Young had an apartment in Kensington?’ still lives up North, beyond the past of the Port Fishington region and into a home setting I dare not reveal. (Or know for certain). And today, he makes his major-label debut with “(watch my moves)” for Verve Records.
Mostly a label dedicated to the finest in jazz, past and present, Vile’s “(watch my moves)” can hardly be confused with bebop, post-bop, or such, yet surges with the twin spirits of invention and improvisation. Yes, there’s that sprawling, scrawling, ever-spiraling, spacy, airy, rawk out guitar work – mixed with de-tuning synthesizers – on new album tracks such as “Mount Airy Hill (Way Gone).”
Sing-speaking a bunch in a manner that would make Lou Reed seem shouty, there is a dreamy stream-of-consciousness to the manner in which Vile parses his lyrics on “Mount Airy Hill” and the shuttered, Covid-claustrophobic vibe of “Flyin’ (like a fast train)”.
There are pop-centric duets with Cate Le Bon on “Jesus on a Wire” with Chastity Belt on the tearful “Chazzy Don’t Mind”, Kurt Vile’s take on Bruce’s Born in the USA-era outtake “Wages of Sin” and a literal tribute to Neil Young on “Going on a Plane Today”, each of which is a still wonky, relaxed fit, denim-y plea to a good life taken at a cool pace.
My favorite bit of Vile’s new album (and is this really his tenth album?), comes during the synthy, raw silken “Fo Sho” when he sing-speaks “Even if I’m wrong, gonna sing-a-my song till the ass crack o’ dawn. And it’s probably gonna be another long song.” The man knows himself and his market.
Amen, brother. Amen.