Doug Martsch | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Doug Martsch 

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Now You Know, the recently released solo bow by former (and, the flacks assure us, current) Built to Spill front man Doug Martsch, isn't actually new--it was recorded in 1999, between that year's poppy Keep It Like a Secret and last year's doleful Ancient Melodies of the Future. But it feels that way. Not just a band album that didn't happen to be recorded by the singer's usual band (like the new solo disc from Rhett Miller of the Old 97's), Now You Know sounds out of place in the Built to Spill catalog, thanks to its pronounced blues feel. Even when Martsch is at his sunniest, his whiny vocals and impatient guitar suggest perpetual worry, but he sounds lighter here than he has since 1994's There's Nothing Wrong With Love. He's frequently content to fingerpick an acoustic guitar instead of overdubbing himself silly on electric, and even on Mississippi Fred McDowell's grimy dirge "Woke Up This Morning With My Mind on Jesus" the sense of burden that weighed down Ancient Melodies is hardly present. Several of his originals are also 12-bar blues, but ironically he's seldom sounded happier. The title track, a sweet, direct love song recorded through a film of surface noise, is one of his most affecting songs yet. Sunday, October 6, 10 PM, Monday, October 7, 6:30 and 11 PM, and Tuesday, October 8, 9 PM, Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport; 773-325-1700 or 312-559-1212.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Frank Swider.

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