It’s been a while since I’ve listened to Built to Spill’s 1997 album Perfect From Now On in its entirety. To my detriment. Everyone knows and feels and loves “Randy Describes Eternity,” the six-minute-long opening epic that uses overlapping guitar swirl and trippy riffs and echoes and anger to, in effect, describe eternity, or maybe the idea of eternity out in Boise, Idaho, where the Built to Spill guys are from. But I’d previously overlooked or failed to understand the excellence of the third track, “Stop the Show”: It begins aimlessly but then builds into a chugging riff; the first lyrics you hear are “You don’t tell me anything that’s not a dream, that’s not a big lie.” The song ends with a 30-second guitar groove that brings to mind Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore, or maybe them trying to remake “By-Tor And the Snowdog” in their own image. It has made today very easy to get through.
Keep It Like a Secret, the 1999 album that features Built to Spill’s most sincere testimony to its greatness in the rocker “Carry the Zero,” is arguably the more accessible album, and so you might start there if you’ve never bothered to check out the band. But I prefer this one. Two other songs on Perfect From Now On make me want to lie down on the ground: The penultimate track, “Untrustable,” with its lyric “God is whoever you’re performing for”; and the crushingly beautiful 7:32 “Kicked It in the Sun,” basically a two-parter, and it’s a lyric on the jangly, shimmering, second part that nails me:
Despite his expectations
He turned out mediocre.
His master plan was so-so.
We’re special in other ways
Ways our mothers appreciate.
Built to Spill has finally, finally followed up its subpar 2001 record Ancient Melodies of the Future with You in Reverse, an album that makes you long for the mid-1990s and which is filled with long, intense instrumental indie-rock jams. (Relax: Built to Spill is not a jam band.) There’s a tour scheduled for this summer, and if you see a chance to attend a show, as I did last fall one block away from my apartment at cozy Southpaw, Steve Winwood and I would counsel you to take it. Doug Martsch, like Ranaldo and Moore, gives his all during his shows — you’re definitely going to get your money’s worth, especially if he plays his cover of “Cortez the Killer.” It’s a shame that he’s not more well known outside of the constrictive indie-rock genre, but so many things of this sort are shameful. Famous or not, Martsch is a guy worth getting into: a true guitar hero in a genre with so few of them, and one who is able to pull off a faux-flake sweater without looking pretentious or fey (he’s the balding guy on the left):
WHY I’M ANGRY TODAY
My apartment was cleaned by a semi-professional on Sunday morning, which was so nice for the rest of that day, but the lemony scent of Mr. Clean is now a distant memory.