Built To Spill – There’s Nothing Wrong With Love

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

Over the last 6 months, I’ve realized that my pace with this project is best when I can go from one band’s album to another, and shit gets bogged down when I hit a patch of five albums by the same band. Well, welcome to Built To Spill, the pride of Boise. The irony of course is that this means the more I like a band, the more difficult it is to write about how much I like that band. Figures.

What I Think of This Album

This is not the Built To Spill album you are looking for. Probably. It is nonetheless a Built To Spill album you should own. It doesn’t always sound like their classic work; there are basically no extended guitar workouts, and most songs are under four minutes long. Also, Doug Martsch’s lyrics seem hyperpersonal here on the sophomore outing, and more direct than in future songs. The highlights are easy to pick out, though much of the rest is excellent. Even amongst geniuses, there is a valedictorian and salutatorian.

Time-travelling, autobiographical “Twin Falls” is the perfect vehicle for Martsch’s fragile vocals and nostalgic but clear-eyed reminiscing, with an excellent solo to boot. “Big Dipper” opens with the acapella word “Once,” and then lurches into the night, finding its groove on the chorus with the wonderful line “you should have been here last night / And heard what the Big Dipper said to me;” little brambles of guitar spiral off every so often, like a time-lapse film of vegetable shoots, and then a wonderful fuzzy solo blooms. And a false ending!

The vivid and way-too short “Car” (which somehow packs an album’s worth of style and instrumentation in just under three minutes) is the cinematic and emotional center of the album, offering something new and wonderful (those cellos will make you cry) every fifteen seconds and gifting you with the hypnotizing plea “I wanna see / Movies of my dreams.” Then there is “Distopian Dream Girl” (not a typo) – with its impassioned defense of Bowie – and 30,000 different guitar sounds that anticipate what was to come on Perfect from Now On and Keep It Like a Secret.

“Some” is a goddamn masterpiece, alternating between quiet parts and then parts when Martsch just turns up the volume and kicks ass; this is not far off from a more thoughtful Dinosaur Jr doing a Neil Young impression. On either side of these are quality tunes like the trebly “In The Moment,” with its abrupt shift to discordant strings and even more shocking conclusion (the liner notes explain that this back half was stolen from sometime guest guitarist Brett Netson’s Caustic Resin; Brett Netson, of course, should not be confused with Built To Spill bassist Brett Nelson). “Reasons” comes across like a yearning, haunted ballad, but with a more barbed guitar sound. “How the hell do you do this?” is exactly right, Doug.

“Israel’s Song” probably gave Modest Mouse some ideas; this is nice off-kilter rocker. The second-longest song, “Stab” goes through a number of shifts, most of them intriguing and all of them sort of intimidating, at times sounding a bit metal and at times very proggy. Cello and acoustic guitar coexist on the gentle and unexpected (but sort of icky) “Fling.”

Meanwhile, “Cleo” is the oddest song, wriggling around and changing clothes and spouting very stoner observations in the dark; this song is arguably about his child? Coming up second in the competition for strangest track is schizophrenic “The Source,” which nonetheless has some very cool guitar sounds going on in search of a song.

Among the many people and bands thanked in the liner notes are future collaborator in the wonderful Halo Benders (and founder of K records, and singer/guitarist for Beat Happening) Calvin Johnson; Seattle band Flop; and, not very surprisingly, Crazy Horse. Phil Ek (Modest Mouse, Tullycraft) produced.

The Best Thing About This Album

In lieu of choosing between a million guitar sounds, I will go with “that brontosaurus must have stood a thousand miles high” from “Big Dipper.”

Release Date

September, 1994

The Cover Art

I like the idea, but they faltered on the execution. It’s just too difficult to make out the cloud against the background – it’s possible that was intentional – but the imagery itself, conceptually, is excellent.

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