Monday, January 15, 2007

When you feel the darkness shining through, what are you gonna do?

#12 Built to Spill, Perfect From Now On (Warner Bros., 1997)

As I crawl begrudgingly back into the UH T-25 sweatshop to bang out still 12 more mini-treatises (treatisettes?) I don’t feel quite as ashamed as I might be, seeing as the factory floor is still mostly empty, save for a dusty U2 classic in the corner and some unspeakable spill that must have come from D.L. Roth. Nonetheless, I still feel compelled to offer an excuse. The holidays came and went, but it’s not like I spent all that time toasting chestnuts and stringing popcorn back at Sean B HQ (though know this: we were festive, my friends). I had more than enough free time to climb into the upper reaches of my countdown, but with this next one I could think neither of some clever, yet crystallizingly insightful metaphor, nor of a poignant coming of age reminiscence to propel me to the keyboard. So that’s my excuse. That, and my in-laws live in south Louisiana and know how to keep their cabinets and fridges stocked with the good stuff, if my drift is being caught.

So I hope it’s enough to say that Perfect From Now On is a darn good record. Built to Spill is good times all around (and if I could import a tune or two from Keep It Like a Secret here, that might make for a top 3 album), but this one is the most album-y, and the one I never skip tracks on. Probably the most expansive BtS album, and of its 8 tracks, only one is less than five minutes long. I want to call it meandering, but it’s not jam band-esque noodling. The songwriter and bonafide guitar hero (the only such animal in indie rock? other suggestions solicited in the comments…) who runs this show, Doug Martsch, displays an amazing skill for creating a sound that is simultaneously improvisational and purposeful. That might sound not quite possible, so let me try a simile: the songs here are like a lazy, daydreaming afternoon walk on the beach, one with sharp and almost random turns, with highs and lows, but one where you look back at the end and realize that where there used to be two sets of footprints in the sand, there is now an awesome guitar riff.

If you can forgive the barely tolerable album cover (I almost can’t), this one is well worth devoting some of your time to. It starts off a little slow – or, rather, the first ten minutes are good but not mind blowing – but Perfect From Now On gets better with each song, culminating with the best song here, “Untrustable.” In this almost 9-min epic, Mr. Martsch packs into one track a lesser mortal’s whole album worth of ideas. Martsch, a decent lyricist who shows flashes of aphoristic brilliance, asks an important question (which I’ve quoted in the title of this post), to which he seems to answer: drop some huge guitar rock in a coda, then mellow out a little, and finally finish with another, louder coda. To which I reply: more, please.


Big Cougar said...

Doug Martsch, those were the times you carried me. You truly are a historian of six-string histrionics, i.e. you make me see movies of my dreams.

Captain Ultra said...

that sounds sexy, brandon. VERY sexy. does sarah know about this?

Sarah said...

i did not. (fill in here with clever repartee and the like) i don't have time for this. i've got too many damn posts to do AND school to get back to. winter break has passed me by...FUCK!!!!!!!!