When Saturday Night Live was new, Chevy Chase took to wearing a T-shirt that said, “Yes, that’s my real name.” That’s because everyone thought it was a goof on the Maryland city of the same name.
Kurt Vile hasn’t yet resorted to that, but the moody, Post Punk/Neo Garage Rock retro-modernist sure has answered a lot of questions about his name since his first major-label release, Childish Prodigy, came out last year on Matador Records. (He had two previous releases.) It’s just too close a surly twist on Kurt Weill — the German composer of toughly political musicals like The Threepenny Opera — for coincidence.
“My parents didn’t even know when they named me about Kurt Weill,” Vile says by phone. “But I’m stoked about my real name. It has a, quote-unquote, ‘Punk Rock vibe.’ ”
Vile — with some form of his back-up band, The Violators — opens for Fucked Up Monday night. His album has received wide praise for its dense, textured production and for the spookily hypnotic vibe of songs like “Freak Train” and “Hunchback.” His voice has traces of Tom Petty or Mick Jagger, but the tone is darker and more febrile, like Roky Erickson or The Cramps.
As his solo career has taken off, Vile has had to cut back on his activities with the Philadelphia band The War on Drugs, for which he was the lead guitarist.
He took part in that band’s label debut, 2008’s Wagonwheel Blues on Secretly Canadian, and is best friends with its leader, Adam Granduciel.
“Once that album came out, I went on the first tour to Europe and then they went along without me for a while,” he says. “Adam has been on most of my Violators tours as well, but he’s working on a new record. As far as my own time, basically I’m working on my own thing.” (Steven Rosen)
What’s up, Canada? How do you keep spawning really good bands? The latest northern export to make its mark down here is Fucked Up, a mysterious, constantly evolving seven-year-old outfit that often lives up to its name (pictured).
FU’s 2008 breakthrough album, The Chemistry of Common Life, is a dense, epic slab of Hardcore Rock that's both heavier and more complex than the genre’s typical output. The Toronto sextet — whose performing aliases include immense frontdude Pink Eyes, guitarist 10,000 Marbles and bassist Mustard Gas — takes subversive glee in tweaking the playbook: How many Hardcore bands would open an album with the sound of a single flute floating innocently through the air?
FU knows the value of dynamics, and the moment when said opening track, “Son the Father,” moves from a slow build to the outright chaos of Pink Eyes’ piercing scream amid slashing, corrosive guitars will have less adventurous listeners running for the hills. The rest of Chemistry kicks nearly as much ass, shifting from the throbbing “Magic Word,” which brings to mind Les Savvy Fav on a Jger bender, to “Looking for God,” a moody, stripped-down instrumental that wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack to Jim Jarumsch’s existential western Dead Man.
The band’s stream-of-consciousness lyrical concerns are just as varied, running from elemental stuff like bones and milk and stones to scathing critiques of organized religion (“It’s hard enough being born in the first place — who would want to be born again?”).
Pink Eyes — whose bald head, near-300-pound frame and gruff, ozone-penetrating voice brings to mind the love child of Tim Harrington and King Kong Bundy — often dominates the band’s live shows with a genial, audience-engaging demeanor that belies his appearance. And while he’s likely to again be the center of attention when FU takes over the Southgate House on Monday, don’t overlook the impressive rumble conjured by his banal-by-comparison bandmates — even if they make it all look so effortless. (Jason Gargano)
(Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.)