Aug 13, 2020

‘Built to Spill,’ dries up on latest album

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After three years, “Built to Spill” returns with their seventh album, “There is no Enemy,” the band’s most balanced work in years.

Frontman Doug Martsch delivers his soft fleeting melodies and eccentric driven guitar solos typical of a, “Built to Spill,” album.

After 17 years of making dreamy indie-rock music, fans again won’t be disappointed. Although the band’s latest album doesn’t have the strong sense of urgency from their last effort, “You in Reverse,” the new album is more consistent and restrained, featuring the band’s obligatory themes of loss, boredom and dreams.

On the album’s opener “Aisle 13,” Martsch sings, “No one knows cause no one wants to know what they might find. No one sees cause no one wants to see what’s in their mind.”

Martsch himself is never too telling of what’s in his mind, as most songs on the new album dance happily around dark themes with the bouncy rhythm of the guitar and fleeting vocals. The singer has stated that his songs have no personal meaning, but are universal from the suggestive tones. Either way, it’s engaging.

Martsch manages to create an uplifting overtone to lyrics. Listeners can almost see his sneering grin on “Things Fall Apart” as he sings, “Stay out of my nightmares, stay out of my dreams. You’re not even welcome in my memories. Things are alright and I want what I’ve got.”

On the song “Good Ol’ Boredom,” monotony serves as an escape. “When nothing hurts and no one’s dying, most of my dreams have come true.”

While Martsch would rather spend the latter part of his day in a dream, he can’t seem to ignore the detachment people have with their own emotions — a recurring theme for the band.

But then there’s the shockingly personal “Pat.” With most of the songs clocking longer than five minutes, “Pat” is an explosive two-and-a-half minute blast of angst mourning the loss of a friend. The song’s lyrics feature haunting imagery as Martsch sings, “Just sitting by your bed and talking to your head. And hearing what you said as if you’d never left.” The closing lines of “Pat” sends chills down the listener’s back, as Martsch gives the impression that perhaps Pat had made some mistakes, but all was forgiven in his death.

It’s quite possible that “Built to Spill” has created a good album, but not a spectacular one. The songs’ restraint and consistency are the album’s strengths, but also its weaknesses.

If only more of the songs had the energetic angst of “Pat,” the impact of some of the album’s darker themes would be more affecting. However, Martsch’s control and fluidity of his songs give the album high re-playability and a rightful place in the “Built to Spill” catalogue.

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