Friday, January 22, 2010

Built To Spill - There Is No Enemy

Rating: B-

I'm really tempted to write a one-line review here: "it's a Built To Spill album." If you're a fan of the Pacific Northwest-based quintet, you know what that means: spacey, skilled guitar solos that are allowed to breathe over long tracks, complementing late-night-stoned lyrics sung in Doug Martsch's best Neil Young impression. If you're not a fan, you know what that means also: go-nowhere meandering guitar solos bridging sometimes-cryptic-sometimes-asinine lyrics sung in Martsch's nasal whine. They have some of the sound expansions you might expect - there's a little horn part in the strong "Life's a Dream," but it's just background over another tight guitar solo.

I love Built To Spill, but let's be honest: they've been coasting on the same formula for a while. There's a fine line between having "a distinctive sound" and having "all your songs sound the same," and BTS walks it. The amazing thing to me is how many guitar solos they have on each album, but it still doesn't get boring. "Hindsight" and album closer "Tomorrow" both feature short, simple filler riffs that are absolutely gorgeous. Just about every song allows room for Martsch's noodling, but the range from the slide guitar in "Nowhere Lullaby" to distorted bends in "Tomorrow" keeps him from repeating himself. The lyrics, on the other hand, are at times groan-inducing: "I come home to find you covered with ants / 'cause you're so sweet" he sings in opener "Aisle 13."

Built To Spill's magnum opus is still 1997's "Perfect From Now," with its dark motifs, spacey atmospherics, and haunting tone. Like just about every BTS album since, "There Is No Enemy" hits the high points, but without "Perfect From Now On's" consistency, the effect is greatly diminished. BTS is a band with a great ability to create atmosphere; it would be nice if they would create one and let us sit in it for an hour instead of jerking us in and out to show how much range they have. After all, at the end of the day, it just sounds like a Built To Spill album either way.

Buy from Amazon:
There Is No Enemy [Explicit]
Built To Spill Site

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