Built to Spill: ‘Going Against Your Mind’

Indie Sensation Rocks FLEX presenting their new CD ‘You in Reverse’

On The Town | Tanja Maleska | June 2007

In a time of indie-rock madness, Built to Spill’s album You in Reverse is by no means music you haven’t heard before. Front man Doug Martsch’s high-pitched yet mellow voice, along with the mesh of melodic pop and classic rock guitar, sound strangely familiar. He combines this with raw sound quality, minimalist lyrics, and highly technical music.

Built to Spill start a month-long European tour in May, and you can catch them May 16th live at Vienna’s indie-hotspot the Flex. Rumor has it that the band can only be fully appreciated once you’ve seen them in concert, and considering the intimacy between band and audience that Flex offers, their show in Vienna is certainly an event worth adding to your calendar.

Built to Spill have not only influenced bands like Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie, that have since gone on to greatness, but they have also been doing ‘the indie thing’ for almost 15 years and long before all the hype – ever since Martsch left his home town of Boise, Idaho, for Seattle in 1992 to form the band.

The band’s line-up has changed a number of times during the years, adapting to Martsch’s evolving songwriting. His initial idea was to change the line-up for every new album, a goal he has come close to achieving, but at the price of an identifiable sound. At present, the band’s Myspace page lists Martsch, Netson, Nelson, Scott Plouf and Jim Rothas as current band members, with Netson not on the You in Reverse album but back for the tour.

Martsch, Nelson, Pouf and Rothas seem to have had a lot of fun in the recording studio. You in Reverse has the jam-session quality of an album that was recorded live – an idea that the band initially played around with, but eventually decided to drop – which explains the lengthier, seemingly improvised songs:  The opening track ‘Goin’ Against Your Mind’ for example, is just under nine minutes long.

What is surprising about these longer tracks, including ‘Wherever You Go’ and ‘Conventional Wisdom’, is that they don’t bore you into skipping them after the four-minute mark. Even with the usually esoteric guitar solos, these songs are wonderfully accessible and work well on the album as a whole. The short track list moves between the uplifting and mixed-tape-favorite third track, ‘Liar’, to the almost ballad-like and beautifully calm last song ‘The Wait’. This last tune comes as a breath of fresh air, after you’ve gone through ‘Just a Habit’, possibly the weakest song of the album and proof that guitar solos don’t always work.

As a whole, however, You in Reverse works remarkably well, regardless of whether you choose to play it in the background or pay close attention to the elaborate technical detail that the band has put into the album. That said, for a front man who sees himself as more of a songwriter than an instrumentalist, Martsch’s less-is-more approach to the lyrics of this album seems odd. On more striking tracks like ‘The Wait’, the lyrics don’t seem equal to the songs’ balladic form. However, this is clearly a technical album, with an obvious preference for form over content.

Though their Myspace page is updated regularly, it does not include any tracks from the new album on its play list; prospective listeners are forced to buy the entire CD.



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