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(Credit: Kurt Vile)

Music

Kurt Vile's favourite song of all time may surprise you

Kurt Vile is one of the best songwriters of a generation. The Pennsylvania native is a natural talent, and is a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer. As well as his hazy solo output, he is also known for his work as the former lead guitarist of anthemic rock heroes, The War on Drugs. For his solo work, in both the studio and live setting, Vile is accompanied by his backing band, The Violators, comprised of Jess Trbovich, Rob Laakso and Kyle Spence. 

Vile’s music is an embodiment of all of the best parts of modern American music, and he draws on the works of John Prine, Neil Young, Tom Petty, John Fahey, Pavement and Dinosaur Jr. to create his unique version of Americana. He made his first foray into music creating lo-fi home recordings with The War on Drugs frontman Adam Granduciel in Philadelphia. 

His first album, Constant Hitmaker, was released to warm praise in 2008 and was followed up by his Mark E. Smith-inspired sophomore album God Is Saying This to You… in 2009. Going from strength to strength, he signed to indie powerhouse Matador in 2009, who released his fan favourite, Childish Prodigy, later that year. This was the start of Vile’s real rise, as it was the first he recorded with The Violators and his first in a studio. 

Moving into the ’10s, Vile would start to hit on something truly profound and released a string of modern classics, including 2011’s Smoke Ring for My Halo and the iconic Wakin on a Pretty Daze in 2013. These were followed by 2015’s B’lieve I’m Goin Down… and 2017’s Lotta Sea Lice, and the former saw him team up with Melbourne heroine Courtney Barnett. His last full-length came in the form of 2018’s critically acclaimed Bottle It In, which convinced any doubters of his artistic skill. 

Although Vile owes a lot to the eminent American artists mentioned before, there’s another act that he places above the rest. These are Pennsylvania forebears, Ween. One of the most prominent cult bands, the duo, comprised of Gene and Dean Ween, are known for their surreal, drug-fuelled experimentation, taking as much of their cues from The B-52’s as they do Steely Dan and Sex Pistols.

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They’re one of the most distinctive alt-rock acts out there, and over their long career, they’ve created a unique and eclectic style that’s seen them touch on metal, country, prog, psychedelia, R&B and more. Fusing this dexterity with a sharp wit, they’re an exciting band in the sense that they’re loved for both their serious facets and more lighthearted ones. 

Duly, one of Ween’s classic tracks Kurt Vile describes as his favourite song of all time. The track is the surreal stoner masterpiece ‘Mutilated Lips’ from their 1997 concept album The Mollusk. An incredibly influential track, clearly SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenburg wasn’t the only one inspired by its dark nautical tale. In an interview with Aquarium Drunkard, Vile labelled the song his favourite of all time, and explained that The Mollusk “blew his mind” when he first listened to it as a teenager. 

Asked how he first got into Ween, Vile responded: “As a teen, you know… I liked ‘Voodoo Lady’ on the radio. I would hear them in passing and then when The Mollusk just came out [some] friends came home drunk — I was staying at someone’s house, and two people that live there came home drunk — and they just had seen Ween at the Trocadero in Philly, it was for The Mollusk, and then they played the album, and I was definitely stoned, and a teenager and it blew my mind. [I’ve been] a super fan ever since. I still think ‘Mutilated Lips’ is my favourite song maybe ever.”

The way The Mollusk has managed to inspire many contemporary legends is mindblowing. Across TV and music, you can heed its impact and its a testament to the wild minds of Gene and Dean Ween. For any of those who haven’t heard the record, I suggest you try it, you won’t regret it. 

Listen to ‘Mutilated Lips’ below.