Kurt Vile: Back to Moon Beach (Verve) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, February 22nd, 2024  

Kurt Vile

Back to Moon Beach


Nov 22, 2023 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Kurt Vile has worn a lot of hats over the course of three decades in music, but prophet of doom is a new one. The nearly hour long Back to Moon Beach is laughably described as an EP (extended play for sure), and consists primarily of outtakes recorded over the past few years. The second song here, “Touched somethin (caught a virus),” brings Vile his newfound doom monger moniker. Written and recorded well before the COVID-19 pandemic was upon us, Vile smartly cut the track from his Verve debut, (watch my moves). But the trippy and quite lovely song has an almost nostalgic feel to it a few years on. “Man I got a migraine,” Vile complains at a couple of points as the song wends its way along.

Other highlights here include the opening song, “Another good year for the roses.” The song continues Vile’s ongoing string of tips of the hat to his musical heroes (artists as diverse as Hank Williams, Chastity Belt, and Horace Silver all got shout-outs on his prior album). Here George Jones gets the nod as having sung the greatest country song and being a “man possessed by the devil.” The song’s loopy piano driven melody is utterly infectious as it builds to a frazzled close. And the eight-minute, “Tom Petty’s gone (but tell him I asked for him),” salutes Gainesville’s favorite son with a rambling pace on par with Vile’s own “I’m an Outlaw.”

But much of Back to Moon Beach suffers from the patchwork approach that taking things from the cutting room floor is sometimes bound to offer. The other eight-minute song on the album is what most of Vile’s long form songs ably avoid—dreary. The title track may convey the weightlessness of the lunar landscape, but it’s a slog to get through. Vile’s repeated wide-eyed observation that “there’s a beach on the moon,” wears its welcome out early on. Though the run through of “Must Be Santa” with Vile’s daughters on hand is cute, and though it may be Grinch-like to say it, its crawling pace does little to get one excited for the return of the man of the season at hand. And a tacked on “single mix” of one of the best songs from (watch my moves), “Cool Water,” is both a head scratcher and evidence of the hodgepodge of material here.

A cover of Wilco’s “Passenger side” is a charming late album moment that has more on par with Neil Young’s “Roll Another Number,” which is referenced in the song. And the image of Vile picking a guitar on a camping trip also brings a smile on the drum machine driven sketch, “Like a wounded bird trying to fly.” The album also marks some of the final recordings that Vile made with long time musical partner Rob Laakso, who died earlier this year. On balance, Back to Moon Beach leans just enough into the recommended category and adds a few low key gems to Vile’s catalog along its meandering way. (www.kurtvile.com)

Author rating: 6/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10


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