Monday Culture Club - Built to Spill

I can never really gauge how much people like Built to Spill. Those who know them seem to assume their relevance, which prevents them from ever really getting the exposure they deserve. But even among Built to Spill-appreciating corners, nobody really seems to talk about There's Nothing Wrong With Love, and I see a big problem with that.

For whatever reason, some bands don't assert their own best or favorite album; rather, it comes down to individual experience. It's often the case with the White Stripes, Radiohead and several others that have recorded several albums of relatively equal caliber. There's Nothing Wrong With Love is the first Built to Spill album I heard, and that's why I like it most.

Sure, Keep It Like a Secret is perfectly formulated from front to back; sure, You in Reverse is irrefutably awesome. But none of those bring me back to my silver stereo and the CD-R on my basement floor on a cold winter day, nor do they make any undeniable argument to rate themself above TNWWL.

Part of what makes TNWWL so much more endearing to me are its flaws. There are only a handful of truly remarkable songs, but the imperfections of songs like "Reasons" and "Distopian Dream Girl" lend them a quality as if they were recorded in a garage somewhere in preparation for a high school showcase. And, coincidentally enough, when I was introduced to TNWWL, I was doing a lot of that very same thing.

But even more than unstoppable jam "Big Dipper," the song that sticks out most for me is "Twin Falls." However riddled with interesting metaphors and substantive anecdotes, most of Doug Martsch's vocals don't mean very much. They connect dots that are way over their or our heads, but "Twin Falls" is the only time we really get a truly vulnerable snapshot. Even on "Car," Martsch is talking about what "comets, stars and moons are all about." He probably describes it best when he says, "I want specifics on the general idea." But on "Twin Falls" we get specifics on the specifics. And when he says "It don't bother me" and when they cut it off short of two minutes and transition into the cascading guitars on "Some," it's almost as if they're hanging their heads in shame. They never meant it to go there, but I'm pretty glad they did.

My brother—olde Gregg, who's still posting can't-miss jams over at skirts—once gave me possibly the most resonant piece of advice I've ever received when he said if a girl liked Modest Mouse but didn't like Built to Spill, I shouldn't be dating her anyway.

It's not really that Built to Spill sounds exactly like Modest Mouse, but it's that Built to Spill is such an unavoidable gateway to so many important strains of music. They're the fulcrum between Modest Mouse and Band of Horses, My Morning Jacket and the Black Keys, and countless others. They sit at the center of indie rock's spokes, I suppose. They're the Dardanelles of indie rock, a touchstone that connects you to where you want to go. And so when someone appreciates Modest Mouse without acknowledging Built to Spill, they're essentially Xerxes. That is, they probably like Modest Mouse because they write pop songs for VH1 or something. At some point shared interests are too ambiguous and you need to establish a shared reason for the interest. My reason for interest is almost always Built to Spill.

Brief aside: The first working title for this blog was "General Specifics," drawn from the aforementioned quote from "Car." ... In case you were wondering.

There's Nothing Wrong With Love was released in 1994.

1 comment:

  1. Hmm, I don't recall saying that but it's solid advice. Nice post. And General Specifics would have been a better name, I think.