Don't judge a book by its cover. Kurt Vile's long-haired hippie appearance may suggest West Coast roots -- even though he's actually a Philadelphian -- but his sound comes straight out of the underbelly of the Big Apple. With a slack-singing style reminiscent of Lou Reed or Alan Vega, and his vocals doused in slap-back reverb, the songs on Childish Prodigy shift between gritty numbers driven by guitar fuzz and steady ballads backed by one-key baritone drones. If this sounds a bit derivative of the Velvets, well, it is and it isn't. Vile and his backing band the Violators are knowledgeable students of the CBGB school of rock, circa Son of Sam, but just when you think you have them pegged as leather-clad street hoodlums on "Freak Train," a shuffling Roland 707 groove topped with a distortion wall and tense yelps ("I've never been so insulted in my whole life! Shit!"), they double back the other way with the mellow, fingerpicked circles of "Blackberry Song." The '70s New York scene makes up a big chunk of this album, but Vile's unique as a visionary with his own sound and a wide range of voices that turn from rambunctious to innocent in a blink. Childish Prodigy is split between drunken caterwauling and quiet hangover-recovery sessions, and both sides of the spectrum are fantastic. The band's spirit is captured perfectly, courtesy of Jeff Zeiglar's open-sounding recording style, and the indie underground rarely seems this fresh and free.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Lymangrover