Posted by: George | November 12, 2017

Why I Hate Kurt Vile

Before I explain about why I hate Kurt Vile, I need to explain why I love Courtney Barnett. At this moment (may it pass sooner than the Trump presidency), they are, though it leaves a dent in my soul to acknowledge it, a package deal of sorts.

For about two years, I have been fixated on Courtney Barnett. I hope not in an unhealthy way, but maybe. She’s a place I like to visit often, and it is a good place.

If I had to analyze it, I would say I am drawn to her authenticity. She is like the cool chick you wanted to hang out with in high school but you never had the guts to talk to because she moved on the edge of cliques as if she belonged without belonging, as if she were accepted without even caring about being popular. And you were the guy who wanted to belong to any group but ended up eating lunch alone. Even when you were a stupid teenager, you knew these two worlds could orbit near each other but never synch up.

And yes, the “you” here is “me,” but maybe a little less pathetic. I didn’t always eat lunch alone. I had some friends. But I never talked to that girl.

When I listen to Barnett’s music, I feel like I am recapturing some lost opportunity, like I am hanging with that girl. It’s a pretty powerful feeling.

So, when I found out she was doing a show at the Ryman, my favorite place to see live music, I bought a couple of tickets and invited my friend Rod. He’s a bass player in Nashville. He’s a great person to take to shows because he hears things I would never hear on my own. This was going to be a good night. The Ryman, Courtney Barnett, and my best music buddy Rod.

Then, I heard Kurt Vile was going to be part of the show. I had listened to him before, on the recommendation of a student. I didn’t care for him, but I didn’t have a visceral reaction. I assumed he would be opening, so I wasn’t worried yet. Then, Lotta Sea Lice, their collaboration album, came out. I did not like it at all. I started to worry, but I thought it would be okay. She would probably do a set on her own. I could suffer through a little of Lotta Sea Lice (Courtney with Kurt) for a little of Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Courtney without Kurt).

No such luck. They came on together and remained together. It was nada but a Lotta Sea Lice.

After the first song, Rod leaned to me to complain about how the “bass player” was playing on a regular guitar run through a bass amp. I was wondering why everything sounded flat.

After about seven songs, I leaned to Rod and said, “Let’s go. This sucks.” He smiled and nodded and I am sure was glad I was going to put an end to it. As we were walking out, Courtney began to sing “Depreston” while Kurt was futzing around with his guitar knobs. (I mean “nobs” literally, not “nobs” as in a good Blues song, where “nobs” means something sexual, like “balls.”) This song (Courtney without Kurt) was what I drove five hours, each way, ten hours total, to hear. I asked Rod if we could listen to this song. We stood by the door with the ushers and I was almost ready to suggest we go back to our seats, and then Kurt, happy with his nobs, began to play what I am sure he would call a “guitar solo.” I said to Rod, “That was great until he started to play. Let’s go.”

I vented all the way to the car and part of the drive to Rod’s house.

Here is a highly edited summary:

I hate Kurt Vile.

I hate the way he looks.

I hate how he walks, all bent over, like Bartleby the Scrivener, without Bartleby’s work ethic.

I hate how his guitar tech (who wears a nice suit, by the way) tuned his guitar eight times before the show began and then his guitar was out of tune.

I hate how he can screw up the mix at the Ryman, which has about the best acoustics of any music hall in the world.

I hate his song writing, which shows a profound disrespect for the language, any language.

I hate how he counts off before every song and then plays off the beat, not in the way a good jazz musician plays slightly off the beat to add texture, but totally off the beat, like the way a junior high school drummer plays off the beat while thinking, “This is awesome.”

I hate how he thinks he is some kind of combination of Bob Dylan and Tom Waits without any understanding of their craft.

I hate how he stares into the microphone when he sings, as if it were a mirror.

I hate how he thinks he’s Kurt Cobain when all they have in common is half a name.

I hate how he thinks he’s shredding when he’s playing half notes where a sixteenth note would have fit.

I hate, most of all, how he may have ruined Courtney Barnett for me. Forever.

I do not express all this with any sense of satisfaction. I wish I could be more Zen about the whole affair. I am afraid I’m finally becoming that old guy who doesn’t understand the new wave of disaffected youths. I’ll get over it. I’ll be okay. I needed to vent. I will get back to writing about The Federalist Papers soon.

Consult for background and texts relating to The Federalist Papers.

I also invite your to read Homo Academicus, my serial novel, which is being published at



  1. I needed to read this post tonight, George. Thanks. I’m just off Beale Street in Memphis.


  2. Your are correct in all you say! Even at the molecular level, he is kind of icky.


  3. I cant stand his “lady of the ark” and the way he screams “why” in that annoying way, I just get the urge to punch him in the face


  4. Thank you for this! I can’t stand Kurt Vile and you nailed why. His music just came up on my shuffle and it reminds me I need to delete it. He has to be the most untalented person I have ever seen. NOTHING about him is remarkable. His songwriting, his voice, his playing of any instrument. His albums sound like the ramblings of a homeless heroin addict badly playing a guitar. PS. I wonder if the above poster still thinks t-rump is doing a great job?


  5. I’ve been hearing his songs recently on XMU (a Sirius station) that I listen to. I guess it’s an edgy, slightly alt station. Like a college station back in the day. Overly cool and “have you heard of…., oh, you haven’t?” hipster stuff. Anyway, it’s the perfect station that would fall for Kurt Vile’s “you just don’t get it” coolness scam. He just dares you to “not get it.” It’s Irony 2.0 which won’t work for you if you had to endure the first wave of Irony in Culture. I got so sick of his songs and I googled; “I hate Kurt Vile” and I was glad to find your rundown. I can just see him insisting on trying to make off beat starts his signature, ironic cool thing to do. He sucks.

    You put it better than I do, but his overt coolness is too transparent. It’s like his first priority is to be the ironic cool guy who just beats you over the head with how cool and edgy he is. He is the guy who would immediately find the cool, ironic crowd in any college town right away and be the guy at the cool, alt house party playing bongos in the corner of house parties when everyone else mingles. Prepense cool and very well stategized. I just know this type so well. He just caught the tail end of the ironic 90’s and he’s just hanging on as he approaches his mid 40’s as the guy who so thoroughly pushes his coolness on you so you’ll never notice that he sucks and he can’t sing and his boring, off-beat horseshit just never brings anything to the table, but don’t ever mention that or people can call you out for “not getting it.” The lyrics to “Like Exploding Stones” are among the most annoying ever. Early nineties ironic scam ‘depth’. Like if it’s total horseshit then people will credit it with being deep. I can’t stand this scam artist.


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