Music News

Built to Spill

Nominated for Best Riff of '06 (So Far): "Conventional Wisdom" by Built to Spill.

Oh, it's so, so good. Air-guitar-in-your-underwear good. In that one giddy, irresistible guitar figure, Built to Spill frontman Doug Martsch both refutes and affirms everything his outsider Idaho project has ever been. A quintessential pop-rock hook, expertly sculpted and fuzzily textured for maximum stickiness, it's a wonderfully far cry from the languid melancholy that's made BTS one of the most beloved underground bands of the past decade. The return to form comes later on the six-and-a-half-minute song, where Martsch's standout lead gradually frays into a sprawling sonic vista appropriately accented by gusty atmospherics and a full-bore beat. With all its pep and sway and transition, "Wisdom" presents a lot of flavor to swallow in a single tune. But Built to Spill has never delivered bite-sized nuggets.

BTW, there are other songs on You in Reverse. Album opener "Goin' Against Your Mind" is a frantic, doubletime charger, Martsch's man-child vocals straining against a raucous rhythm section before settling into a distant steamroller lullaby. "Liar" wallows in that small-town, small-time, slow-motion loneliness that gained the band its acclaim, and while "Messing With Time" and "Saturday" don't break new ground, they rock with encouraging vigor for these stalwarts of major-label indiedom.

Longtime compatriots Modest Mouse finally broke big in 2004, and the BTS faithful has been waiting/dreading a similar phenomenon. Five years in the making, Reverse finds Martsch with a full-time, five-piece roster, one that's loose and feisty and impeccable. Still, six-minute songs, no matter how epic, pretty much ensure that Built to Spill will never end up on The OC. Thank the indie gods for that, and for "Conventional Wisdom."

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Jonathan Zwickel