Tuesday, September 11, 2007

[072] There's Nothing Wrong With Love

Album: There's Nothing Wrong With Love
Artist: Built To Spill
Release Date: fall 1994
Label: Up Records
Producers: Phil Ek, with Doug Martsch & Chris Takino

“I want to see movies of my dreams
I want to see movies of my dreams
I want to see movies of my dreams
I want to see movies of my dreams”
- from “Car”

While at the time it might have seemed that they were following the lead of Dinosaur Jr, Sebadoh, and Pavement, Built To Spill pretty much tripped over a revelatory sound on There’s Nothing Wrong With Love. Instead of embracing the lo-fi sound, or sticking to the template laid out in the late 80’s college rock of the Pixies or R.E.M., they moved towards simple pop tunes. Of course, they were still basically a garage band, so the result wasn’t exactly going to be found on the radio anytime soon, but the songs are there, and they’re great. Mastermind Doug Martsch pulls from Sonic Youth and Neil Young to build his crystalline guitar pyramids, but where most disciples concentrate on making a big racket, Martsch often throws the distortion out, and works in clean melodic patterns. He crams his guitar explorations into songs The Byrds could’ve written, and uses distortion as an accessory. In fact, if you subscribe to the long-held notion that Martsch is the guitar-child of Young’s, his songwriting prowess owes just as much to Young’s buddies Crosby, Stills & Nash. Doug Martsch has used this hybrid of songcraft and virtuosity to quietly be a strong force in Indie Rock for the last fifteen years; the pre-Ghost Is Born trajectory of Wilco suggests Jeff Tweedy was paying close attention to BTS, and the recent success of everyone from Modest Mouse and Death Cab For Cutie to Band Of Horses and The Shins proves that Built To Spill had definitely hit on something special, whether they knew it at the time or not.

There's Nothing Wrong With Love is so solid that it almost plays like a greatest hits collection; every song is a keeper. The delicate tale of a first crush on “Twin Falls” gives way to the soft-loud guitar slaughter of the six-minute epic “Some”. The melancholy of “Reasons” and the cinematic sweep of “Fling” hide their sexual shyness. “The Source” tries to play armchair psychiatrist. The rambling nonsense of “Big Dipper” and “Cleo” evaporates when the guitar takes over; a chunky power pop bounce on the former, and a majestic grunge solo on the latter. The most aggressive tune, “Israel’s Song”, meditates on a Jewish boy’s coming of age over a galloping funk beat and a spiraling guitar figure, while the closer “Stab” continues to scorch the Earth with a churning riff, cello stabs, and thrashing digressions. Then there’s “Distopian Dream Girl”, where Martsch distracts you with quips about how his stepfather looks like David Bowie so you don’t notice he’s chipping away at the secret to life and death (which, by the way, sounds similar to the dual realities of The Matrix); with its summery chug, it should’ve been destined for the “Buzz Bin” and an MTV breakthrough that never happened.

Finally, let’s talk about “Car”. There are a lot of great songs on the all these 100 albums, but some are just more... more everything than the others. “Car” is one of those songs; if I was forced to fill just one CD with the best songs from this list, it would definitely be included. It’s got that certain something that elevates it well beyond just being a rock song. Martsch baits you by starting innocently, muttering “You get the car, I’ll get the night off,” before flipping it with “You’ll get the chance to take the world apart and figure out how it works”; few songs start so innocuously and then grow on such an exponential scale in a matter of the first 15 seconds. It’s a song in search of a greater truth. It wants to know “what comets, stars, and moons are all about”. It’s about not settling for our three dimensions, but it’s not really concerned with the destination as much as the journey to get there. It’s a song of great spiritual need (“I want to see movies of my dreams”), the acknowledgment of that need, but also the fear of getting the answer you ask for (“Don’t let me know what you find out”). It never makes up its mind, with lines as flippant as “If I don’t die or worse I’m going to need a nap”, and music that mirrors that uncertainty by posing highly-electrified fuzz guitar against good ol’ unplugged cello. It craves infinity, but is happy just to take the trip. At the very least, you should find it online somewhere and download it, but really, this album is essential to your collection. At the time, in the shadow of the death of grunge and the rise of the "Alternative Nation", Pop was a dirty word, and rarely has wrong felt so right.

01. "In The Morning"
02. "Reasons"
03. "Big Dipper"
04. "Car"
05. "Fling"
06. "Cleo"
07. "The Source"
08. "Twin Falls"
09. "Some"
10. "Distopian Dream Girl"
11. "Israel's Song"
12. "Stab"

"Car" [fan video]

- BONUS: "In The Morning" [live in Lancaster, PA, 07.07]
- BONUS: "Big Dipper" [audio]
- BONUS: "Twin Falls/Some" [live, 06.99]
This might take a while to load, and it's small, but it's worth it.
- BONUS: "Car" [live in Salt Like City]
- BONUS: "Reasons" [live in The Netherlands, 05.07]

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