Built To Spill - There Is No Enemy
Now available in the UK after a domestic release last Autumn, There Is No Enemy reached #50 in the US Billboard charts, making it Built To Spill's most successful album to date, 16 years after their debut.
Doug Martsch's idiosyncratic vocals and immediately recognisable way with a six-string posits Built To Spill as an indie-rock Ramones or Motorhead - you just know a BTS track when you hear it. The quirky vocals are easily placed, the guitar less so, with Martsch somehow able to wrestle out a sound that marries the sonic explorations of Tom Verlaine and Neil Young with extensive use of slide guitar, giving BTS their compelling, yearning quality. Recent albums have suffered from a rather aimless air, with the guitars out-muscling the songs themselves, so it's a relief to find the balance restored on this, their seventh full length.
Not to say there aren't guitars a-plenty: the shimmering intro of 'Good Ole' Boredom' gives way to a nagging, bell-like riff that in turn leads to an extended break, a small army of guitars calling out their own take on the melody and six-and-half minutes of why you fell for the band in the first place. 'Things Fall Apart' plays off wah-wah shapes against mariachi trumpet, capturing a Young-like sense of isolation ("Don't know how to say thanks for being alive.") that's utterly riveting. The flipside to these longer workouts have always been the more concise numbers and There Is ... adds several more to the BTS canon: the furious 'Pat' ("We don't care you're fucked up / Everybody's fucked up") and the sweet 'Hindsight' - that could easily come from their 1990s peak.
A band that define the notion of cult status. Time for the cult to finally go overground.