Our Reluctant Guitar Hero Returns
Album: You In Reverse
Speaking of "finally," it has been five years since the last Built To Spill album hit the streets. You In Reverse doesn't come out til April 11th, but, I've had my impatient hands on a leaked copy for a while now and I am pleased to report (after at least a dozen listens with my very critical ears) that this album can do nothing but please, impress, and rock you. Built To Spill has never been a band that revels in formal innovation and experimentation like Radiohead (but BTS's lush, spaced-out rock sometimes recalls The Bends and OK Computer-era Radiohead). Their reputation lies on the fact that their sound/style is unique and completely their own. Like Television and The Pixies before them, the band's sound and style is their innovation. Not to mention the fact that Doug Martsch will go down in history as indie rock's very own Jimi Hendrix. What can you expect from this album? Superb, epic songwriting that tweaks and expands upon the band's distinct sound. Oh, and lots of great beards. Here is a track-by-track breakdown:
1) "Goin' Against Your Mind" - This track is unlike anything else in the band's catalogue. It begins with a propulsive, martial drumbeat which is maintained throughout the song. Three dueling guitars quickly announce their presence- each of them spiralling and interweaving to create a dense sonic tapestry. This driving, rhythmic epic (9 mins) reminds me of Television's "Little Johnny Jewel."
2) "Traces" - To me, this is the only song on the album that doesn't really stand out as something strong and memorable. It's a relatively flaccid minor-chord vamp that doesn't really do anything spectacular. For some reason, it reminds me of Sonic Youth's last two albums.
3) "Liar" - Back to the good stuff. This is a bouncy, jubilant song that could have fit easily on to There's Nothing Wrong With Love. The shimmering guitar line reminds me of The Smiths' Johnny Marr.
4) "Saturday" - One of Doug's most infectious melodies and shortest songs at barely 2 and a half minutes. Like "Liar," this song is unabashedly catchy despite its languid pace. Bonus points for the use of sleigh bells. Kind of reminds me "Kicked It In The Sun."
5) "Wherever You Go" - From this song on, the album definitely harkens back to the long, layered songwriting of Perfect From Now On. This track kicks off with a big, crunching riff that's halfway between Neil Young and Jimi Hendrix. Naturally, there are glorious guitar solos aplenty.
6) "Convential Wisdom" - In my opinion, "best song on the album" is a draw between this and "Goin' Against Your Mind." The song begins with a hyper-melodic riff that sorta sounds like Bowie circa Ziggy Stardust. About halfway through, the song evolves into an unbelievable instrumental breakdown - like the second half of Wilco's "At Least That's What You Said" or Television's "Marquee Moon."
7) "Gone" - This song is in the same territory as "Wherever You Go" - bringing to mind Neil Young and then Led Zeppelin with some excellent electric organ laid down on top.
8) "Mess With Time" - This is the heaviest song Built To Spill has laid to tape - sounding just like a lost Queens of The Stone Age tune. It kicks off with a thunderous riff and a winding vocal melody. After a momentous mid-song tangle of solos, the song suddenly transforms into a jaunty flamenco tune - evoking some of Ennio Morricone's desert-sweeping grandeur. Seriously.
9) "Just A Habit" - This is You In Reverse's "Else." A beautiful, elegaic song that builds into a slow untangling of gauzy guitar solos and gorgeous melodies.
10) "The Wait" - At first, this song feels like a continuation of Just A Habit's mood and pace, but, eventually blossoms into a sprawling technicolor gem like Radiohead's "The Tourist."