Built to Spill | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Built to Spill 

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BUILT TO SPILL

On Built to Spill's major-label debut, Perfect From Now On (Warner Brothers), sole constant member Doug Martsch blows up all of his little indie-rock quirks into something that, if not quite larger than life, is almost as long. The band's previous efforts (including two albums on Seattle's C/Z and Up labels) framed Martsch's supple, unadorned hooks with tight, off-kilter pop-rock arrangements and efficient Neil Young-ish guitar splatter; by comparison the new record is downright labyrinthine. The new tunes--eight of 'em in 53 minutes--are full of slow twists, rich layers, and extended guitar solos, which together give off more than a whiff of prog, but Martsch's punk-rock roots break through with a pleasing plaintiveness. The tunes are catchy, Martsch's delivery is earnest (if a tad whiny), and his soloing is expansive enough to occasionally transcend the mundane humility of his indie-rock roots. Though the lyrics, as ever, tend to rely on highly personal mantras ("I can't get that sound you make out of my head," from "I Would Hurt a Fly"), with the addition of former Spinanes drummer Scott Plouf, Built to Spill certainly possesses the instrumental firepower to broaden its appeal the way Warner Brothers surely hopes. Unfortunately, as a recent set I caught in San Francisco made clear, Martsch is more inwardly directed onstage than ever--he comes across far more vividly on the stereo than he does in person. His most eloquent banter? "Thanks for liking our songs, or whatever." If you like staring at your feet, this could be the show of the year. Thursday, May 22, 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Built to Spill by Karena Youtz.

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