Throughout Vida, Pryor goes for his own jugular, targeting his venom inward rather than directing it at others. On the Brahl-penned "Forever Leaving," Pryor browbeats himself to a pulp, concluding with resignation that spending time alone is just much easier. This reclusive -- and eventually tedious -- attitude rears its head over and over again: I don't want my picture in the paper, croons the notoriously press-shy Pryor in a song that takes its name from that line; Escape is the only way out, he laments on the opener, "My Old Man Had a Pistol."
Fortunately, as with most dyed-in-the-wool cynics, Pryor is a romantic at heart. "Stay on the Phone" offers yet another of his patented grand fables, taking place at a greasy-spoon pay phone located somewhere on the lonely rock road. The song's evocative lyrical imagery (rolls of dimes, a pissed-off waitress waiting impatiently in line) and Pryor's seen-it-all performance render it an instant and effortless classic. Pryor also pays his respects with a gorgeous take on Kill Creek's "All Ears," using only the power of his voice to replicate the garage-band intensity of the original. But shunning the garage and the band in favor of whining in one's bedroom is rarely the stuff of greatness, a maxim unchanged by this thirty-minute game of hide-and-seek. As an artistic indulgence, Vida lives up to its inherent pretensions. But as a listening experience, it's nothing to write home about.