Sunday, February 14, 2010

Album Review: Built to Spill - There Is No Enemy

There Is No Enemy
Built to Spill
Warner Bros., 2009

Paul's Rating: 7.5/10

It would be unfair, absolutely a curse, for any band, to have Perfect From Now On in their discography. When you make an album like that, everything else you release is forever measured against it. With that in mind, the irony of that album's title is almost too much to bear. What a different time that was. "Indie rock" was not yet a pop culture fad in 1997. Back then, I didn't even know it existed. If "Indie" was ever a style, Built to Spill might have been its poster child. They're still generally categorized as such, even though they've been on a major label since that album's release. Yet clearly, Warner Bros. was not constraining BTS's creativity.

Even under those constraints, There Is No Enemy holds its own. True, nothing they've released since Perfect quite has that album's edge, but that's setting the bar impossibly high. If Perfect is any indicator of whatever kind of psychic tourism this band may have been engaged in, Enemy continues the trend. "Inside my mind, incessant chatter / When will these brain cells cut me some slack / Maybe I'm not smart enough to think of things to think about that matter / Afraid that once you think some things, there's no going back," frontman Doug Martsch sings in "Good Ol' Boredom." I think that's how he keeps things interesting, even though there are moments in this album when Built to Spill shows some slight wear with age. "Finally decided, and by decide I mean accept / i don't need all those of the chances i won't get," Martsch sings on "Life's a Dream."

Nonetheless, on songs like "Pat," BTS show they can still rock out with their cocks out. On their previous album, they proved it with epic 8-minute opener "Goin' Against Your Mind," but following that song, that album had a few that were a little droopy. Overall, Enemy is on a more even keel, and feels like it has a little more depth. It's no less than I would expect from a band I've seen live at least 6 times. A band that opened up a lot of musical doors for me once or twice in a very hot-boxed WOW Hall in Eugene, Oregon. Nice to see their originality is still going strong.

I wish I'd bought this one on vinyl, because the LP comes with CD copy (no jewel case) and boasts all-analog production, but alas, I bought it on CD.


  1. Well that is very helpful, actually. I always knew that Built To Spill had something going on, as you and Jacob were following them around the NW, but beyond a few select songs I didn't really listen with determination until "You in Reverse" ... and I loved it (well, I loved the first half). In fact, it kind of bummed me out to hear ya'll say that it was good but nowhere near as good as their other stuff. "Goin' Against You Mind" blew my mind and I didn't know where to begin in their extensive discography to find something equally inspiring. Now I know.

  2. Yeah, not to take anything away from "You In Reverse"... I do think the newer album (and older ones) are better, but i suppose that gives you some idea how hard it is to measure one up against the other. Then again, that's not really the point of this blog, and this stuff is all a matter of opinion. "Goin' Against Your Mind" is a great song indeed, one of their best.