Today the term “Indie” is associated loosely with a broad range of music. Built to Spill has technically been long signed with the not-so-indie label, Warner Brothers, but they can still be thought of as one of the hallmarks of indie rock. From their start with the 1993 EP “Ultimately Alternative Wavers,” the Boise, Idaho natives have officially established themselves as classics. After years of aloofly existing in only past albums and at random tours, they have finally bestowed upon their fans the release of their 2009 album, “There is No Enemy.” Whether you’re the casual appreciator or the diehard cult follower, all 54 minutes of the delectably complex lyrics and epic guitar riffs will justify anyone’s level of anticipation. The album proves that not only have they not failed us, but they pride themselves on indefinitely improving.
Since the release of their 2006 album, “You in Reverse,” Built to Spill has seemingly been musically dormant. Unbeknownst to fans, they were tirelessly recording in the studio. The band’s revitalization has been a solid three years in the making. From track one, “Aisle 13,” down to the very last minute of “Tomorrow,” it’s impossible for their efforts to go unnoticed.
The album has elements of old and new. What remains unchanged is their ability to suck you into a boundless black hole of musical genius with every song. It has always been easy to get lost in such ambitiously long melodies, but they’re still just as melancholic as ever. What has changed, though, is the ambiguity of their lyrics. Their new songs seem to have a definite specificity in subject matter.
Up until now, the group had a tendency to write lines chock full of metaphors with some completely open to interpretation. In the jamming classic, “Goin’ Against Your Mind,” lyrics such as “When I was a kid I saw a light / high above the tree tops one night / thought it was an alien / turned out to be just god,” are thought-provokingly vague. Front man Doug Martsch has been known to consistently claim his lyrics as impersonal. Yet, new songs like “Things Fall Apart,” with lyrics such as “stay out of my nightmare / stay out of my dreams / you’re not even welcome in my memory,” make that defense tough to swallow. These painful words resonate so much so that it seems Martsch has suffered at least some sort of loss. What is more apparent than past albums is the usage of the songs as a personal outlet for his frustrations.
Unlike past albums, lines such as “the chicks who play with human brains, they don’t wanna think about the other side, is that grass just greener ‘cause its fake?” from the song, “Hindsight,” are frank. It expresses sheer disappointment. But not all of their songs are as cutthroat and depressing. Although the song, “Nowhere Lullaby,” is blatantly about a long-lasting but failed relationship, it can be perceived as optimistic. Marsche sings, “And everyone gets through the night, and everyone wakes up all night, and the fear you feel will pass, then a calmness that will last.” Built to Spill never lets their fans down with their strength in lyrics. The group’s aptitude for writing is showcased yet again throughout every song on the new album.
Since the release of “Keep it Like a Secret” they’ve completely honed their fluid sound, unblemished instrumentation and grand interludes. They’ve long been popular for their craft of dramatic instrumental build ups. New songs, “There is No Enemy” and “Tomorrow,” prove that they’ve stayed consistent with their roots. “Tomorrow” ends with an impressive three minutes of high-pitched electric guitar which stays true to their indie rock base. The song “Life’s a Dream,” demonstrates another interlude that exudes a complexity that is untouchable and classic for the Built to Spill sound.This album can be likened as a long-awaited ending to the cliffhanger fans were left with in 2003. Their latest is the perfect collaboration of every style and sound they’ve covered since the early days. The fast pace rock-your-head type songs like “Pat” and “Aisle 13”sound as though they could be thrown in the midst of “Perfect From Now On,” whereas songs like “Nowhere Lullaby,” “Things Fall Apart,” and “Life’s a Dream” would flow effortlessly with the sound of the 2000 era albums “Ancient Melodies of The Future and You in Reverse.”
Although the group began with transient members coming and going with every project, they remain solidified with front man Doug Martsch, Brett Nelson and Scott Plouf. Built to Spill are masters of their musical methods. “There is No Enemy” satisfies both the old and new world for fans.
If this were to be the end of a long road, the satisfaction of if it could make this album the ultimate one. Built to Spill will continue their tour around the U.S. until its end in Washington November 21.