Childish? You bet. Prodigy? Hardly. Indie rock is littered with the compact cassettes of endless low fidelity rock bands. And just think of the rest that you taped over from your college days. You remember. The friend of your roommate that opened for Superchunk back in ’95? You recorded Siamese Dream over their demo tape because you needed some tunes for the ride home at Christmas break.
Betcha wouldn’t record over Vile’s shit, though; Childish Prodigy is immature, dirty, and a hell of a lot of fun. In fact, I couldn’t think of a better album to spin to keep you entertained as the mile-markers pass.
It starts with Vile declaring, “I’ve got a hunchback, big as a humpback,” so you get the idea of what kind of lyrics we’re working with here. Later on he advises, “If you don’t have a steel four leaf clover in your pants, you got no chance,” and in between he hoops, hollers, and yells over an endless slap echo.
If the lyrics sound like they were thought up on the spot, the music sounds like it was hashed out a few moments before rolling tape. Electric guitars are buried under fuzz and drums sound like they were captured with one overhead mic. “Humpback” features a “Pablo Picasso” piano, and I could’ve sworn I heard a Fun House saxophone in the mix too.
When he’s not channeling Stooge primitiveness, Vile’s approach sticks close to roots rock, owing a bit more to those first gen originators than to punk rock’s first wave. As a matter of fact, Childish Prodigy alternates between two-chord ferocity with acoustic ballads.
Things do get a bit long winded in the second half as songs seem to go beyond the four minute mark just to keep from having to come up with another tune. More proof? The track “Freak Train” is reprised as “Goodbye, Freaks,” with a droning synth and sequenced beats.
But the first half is entertaining enough to program Childish Prodigy accordingly and those stronger moments are extemporary enough to consider repeated spins.
“What was that?! You better rewind!” Vile screams on “Dead Alive.”
You can be sure that I’m going to follow those instructions.
Video: Kurt Vile – “Freak Train”