Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Kurt Vile - Wakin on a Pretty Daze

Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze
Matador, 2013

Kurt Vile always reminds me of the worst time in my life. That would be the summer after I graduated college. 2009. I’d just met the girl I was going to marry and I had absolutely no prospects. No job. Nothin’ but a girl who loved me which is really always enough pretty much. But I was dicking around. I was freelancing for the Pitch and that ruled but it was still college mentality. Adulthood was foreign at the moment. And then one of my best buddies Chris Bianculli got me a job at the property management company he worked for. First Management. They own a bunch of real estate in Lawrence and I heard the dude who owns the company has a giraffe or an elephant and a private jet. Some serious fucking moneyed guy. Anyway, I got a job doing move-out inspections, apartment cleaning and move-in inspections. I tried to hang on and at least have a ten-hour a week job to hang on to until I found something but the hours kept vanishing. Eventually Chris got fired for some nebulous reason and the person hired to fill his role managing the Canyon Court apartment complex in West Lawrence was totally out of touch. The first day I worked there she had left this note that instructed me to post all these fliers on every door of every apartment at Canyon Court but specifically instructed me NOT to throw all of them in the trash. It might have read like a joke if it hadn’t implied that I was some simpleton and was just going to say “fuck what my boss told me, I’m gonna play pool all day because there is a pool table literally twenty feet from my desk.” So I wrote her a note. It basically said “I think what you wrote here was really condescending. Why would you even imply that I would throw these fliers in the trash? I was paid to do a job and I am going to do that job and I think it’s kind of messed up that you implied that I wouldn’t do the job I was hired to do.” So I put up the fliers in the summer heat and went back to work. Work basically consisted of waiting for residents to get locked out of their apartments and charging them $25 to get let back in. It was a shitty place but I did it because I didn’t have a job. The rest of the job mostly consisted of playing pool and putting up balloons. I was still pretty annoyed with the new manager, and since she specifically instructed that I put up balloons I used the office’s helium tank to pump up like fifty balloons and I daisy chained them with ribbon and made a monolith of balloons out by the pool. I should note that the tone of her instructions was pretty horrible and that my note really wasn’t that bad. OK, it was pretty bad. I was totally in 22-year-old fuck you mode, but really, she had it coming. Because if you just took over an apartment complex and you want to win the trust and respect of your underlings you don’t get all I AM THE BOSS AND YOU WILL RESPECT ME on them. Because that is some stupid shit they probably teach you in business school. I don’t know. I never went to business school and I could probably out-manage any of these fucking pretenders at this point in my life. But anyway, I got fired for my transgressions. It was a beautiful firing. Grandiose and full of fuck you. A firing I never thought I would have because I am usually such a dutiful employee. Always on time, always eager to learn and eager to help. Once when I was working at the Chase Court Apartments KU Basketball legend Sherron Collins got locked out of is apartment and I let him back in for free! I knew I should have charged him, but who charges a local hero a fee to get let back into his shitty overpriced apartment that is probably being covered by the University anyway? Not this guy. When I was doing move-in inspections at Apple Croft (the lowest-rent of all First Management’s properties dubbed “Crapple Loft” by pretty much everyone because it was a dump) I encountered a German exchange student who was baffled by the amount of roaches in his apartment. The roaches were myriad. I’m talking climbing up the walls, climbing on the ceiling and navigating the carpeting. He had mattress cased in plastic wrap leaning up against the wall and the roaches had managed to find a way inside and were climbing all over the mattress.
            “This is really messed up,” I told him. “I’m going to get someone in here right away.”
            He just laughed. “In Berlin, apartments are much worse,” he said in his immaculate accented English. He poked at one of the roaches under the plastic wrap over the mattress and I ran back to the office at Chase Court to get the manager to send the exterminator out. Most of the apartments at Apple Croft had roaches. Most of the apartments had black mold too. I reported this problem and they just sent out Patrick the maintenance guy to paint over the black mold with white paint. Done and done. Apple Croft was also home of the pool where all of my friends and ex-friends notoriously went skinny-dipping. An absolute dump through and through.
            But I lost the thread. The point is, I was trying to make a stand for what was right and just and trying to make management see things through my eyes and they flat out refused. The next Monday, on the day of the all-staff meeting, I was called into the Chase Court office. I was met by the manager of Chase Court (who I’m fairly certain was the highest manager there was who didn’t own a Mercedes/exotic pet) and the new manager of Canyon Court who I had oh so recently reprimanded. I was promptly fired. I knew I was going to get fired because I’d been specifically instructed to come in early. I told Jenny I was probably going to get fired for what I’d said to the new Canyon Court manager and she didn’t seem too upset because it wasn’t a real job anyway. I got in the car and Kurt Vile’s Childish Prodigy was in the CD player and it was just starting over. Track one. “Hunchback.” It only took me five minutes to get to Chase Court from our apartment on 22nd and Tennessee and that song got me pumped up to get fired for the very first (and I can only assume last) time. I went in cool as a cucumber, had my transgressions recited to me and told the Chase Court manager what I thought of what was happening. I told her that I thought it was bullshit, and that what the Canyon Court manager had written was bullshit and I stood by the helpful notes I’d left on the weekend instructions. I awkwardly pried the keys off of my key-ring. I really should have taken them off before hand because that just made things weird. I threw them on the table, told them to “get bent,” and walked out the door. I reentered the office and told them both I was sorry I’d said “get bent,” and that I’d always wanted to say that to somebody and it just happened to be them and that I understood completely why I had been fired.
            In the parking lot I ran into my bro Mark. Mark and I had started at the same time. Both of us had been hired to clean apartments and not so explicitly let go at the end of turn. I slapped hands with him and told him what had happened and wished him good luck. A solid dude, through and through, forever and ever. He wished me luck and I left to the rest of Kurt Vile’s Childish Prodigy.
            Four years later, I’ve managed to work my way up into the management team at the Half Price Books in St. Paul. Lately, I’ve been driving to work listening to Kurt Vile’s latest album Wakin on a Pretty Daze and every morning I drive to work I can’t help but think of getting canned because Kurt Vile immediately makes me think of music to get canned to. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s music for the people who understand that the world works in a specific way and that the way the world works is never a way they’re going to work with. It’s a big fat fucking game, and I think Mr. Vile gets that. To me, his music always feels like a big fuck you to everybody. He just does his thing, rambles on, and then goes on his way.
            There is plenty of rambling here, more rambling than ever even. Childish Prodigy is still my favorite record of his because it was so messy and so built on Kurt Vile becoming a bona fide Singer/Songwriter with capitals. Smoke Ring For My Halo had a few tracks I loved but mostly I got bored. At first, I got bored with Wakin on a Pretty Daze until I listened to it a dozen times on the way to work. There was something transcendent about listening to the quasi title track at 7:45 in the morning and waiting for trains to pass on my way to a job where I felt like I was doing legitimate good work. Where no one is going to fire you for sticking up for yourself. I’ve always felt like that was why I got fired, and why I’ve always held the opinion that Doug Compton and First Management could all go fuck themselves. I fantasized about doing a mini comic about the whole experience and leaving it in the plastic Apartment Finder stalls located around downtown Lawrence. But the whole thing is easier to fit into an album review. Honestly, it’s ones of the best experiences I’ve ever had. You get it if you’ve ever seen the inside of one of those $900 a month apartments.
            After that I worked at CD Tradepost in Olathe for a handful of months (a job I did actually write a mini comic about) until I parlayed that experience into a job at Half Price Books. And I’m content enough. It’s not a dream job but I’m hungry and I like the work and I like the people and I like that I’m not working for a CEO who owns a private jet and a giraffe and buys up all the cheap property in a town and sells it back to the people at exorbitant prices. Those people can all get bent.
            Kurt Vile’s latest album is a bit long in the tooth, but it’s a piece of motherfucking honest work. You get an impression of this guy when you listen to his album. There’s not posing. No artifice. No goddamn dicking around. Just a dude from Philly speaking his mind and often doing it at length. “Wakin on a Pretty Day” is over nine minutes long and it’s got maybe the prettiest little riff I’ve heard all year. A laid-back riff that puts the mind at ease. To this day Childish Prodigy is my quintessential fall record. Every autumn, it finds its way back into my CD player. Something about the finger picking on “Blackberries” and pretty much every song. There’s a tone that bathes that whole album in dimming golden light and it is so insanely beautiful it’s almost impossible to express. Wakin on a Pretty Daze abandons the distant tone for directness. You can hear it best on the absolutely gleeful “Shame Chamber,” the sassy-as-fuck “KV Crimes,” and the chord changes in “Pure Pain.”
            Don’t be fooled into thinking Kurt Vile is some sort of prodigy. The feast he offers up is mostly sick guitar work and drugged-out-sounding vocals and cryptic lyrics, but the level of refinement he has achieved is brand new. I loved Childish Prodigy for its rawness, and I love Wakin on a Pretty Daze for its confidence. Kurt Vile is probably the sort of guy who wants nothing more than to be reviled in his own time and only appreciated years after his death. Too bad for him so many people are catching on.

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