It’s easy to stereotype Kurt Vile as just another psych-rock dude who loves reverb, smokes weed and has a propensity for using the word “yeah.” Accented by backing band The Violators, whose members’ long brown locks evoke an Addams Family vibe, Vile certainly looks the part of the shiftless, folk-influenced crooner — but there’s something madly captivating about Vile that’s distant and yet oddly familiar.
Vile’s draw hinges on his working-class background; he worked as a forklift driver up until 2009. Most of his lyrics are clouded in a stoner haze, but that’s not to say they’re lazy. They present the daily grind of the everyman — the fight to grapple with mundanity and transform it into the beautiful. Vile brings us the muted colors of working-class Philly and makes us yearn for the kind of romantic simplicity.
On So Outta Reach, as on Smoke Ring For My Halo, which came out in March, Vile extends his words like Elasti-Girl, drawing out virtually every line and twisting words internally to create a sprawling drawl. His manic fingerpicking shows up on “The Creature,” recalling the patterns of “Baby’s Arms,” but takes a darker turn both lyrically and sonically. His cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Downbound Train” is the most charged number on the EP; The Boss was melancholic, but Vile offers utter resignation in the face of trouble.
So Outta Reach doesn’t contain anything as raw as “Peeping Tom” or as hummable as “Jesus Fever,” but nevertheless fits perfectly into the Kurt Vile oeuvre. It represents a mood, a nostalgic aesthetic. Just when you think you have him figured out — as his fingers slide against the strings and make that swooshing buzz — he hits you with a hazy wall of reverb, drifting off before you can pin him down.