Built for the Long Spill

Jul 15th, 2010 in Music

Wielding “hits,” hair and high-vocals, Built to Spill came to Soho on Tuesday and easily satisfied their ardent fans.

The Built ones caught our attention when we first heard their “Perfect from Now On” record in 1997.  From the beginning the band has had an uncanny ability to mesh a heavy, but intricate, choral-guitar sound with the high, oft-forlorn vocals of leader Doug Martsch, and to stitch it all together with oblique, but weighty and galvanizing lyrics.  They accent the sound with a dollop of prog, a mantle of metal and, most importantly, marauding melodies.  We have always been fans of male vocals at the high, nasally end of the register, and Martsch’s vocals fit perfectly in that genre’s continuum from Neil Young, to Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips), to Ben Gibbard, to Yoni Wolf (Why?).

After “Perfect”, the band followed 1n 1999 with universally-acclaimed “Keep it Like a Secret,” which took the band to further exalted heights.  And it wasn’t long after the latter’s release that BTS came to the lamented Yucatan in Santa Barbara and regaled the crowd with its extended, innervating floor show.  Martsch’s inventive, Stratocaster-anchored guitar-playing has always been at the core of the band’s appeal, and at the Yucatan Martsch and the band were incendiary, burning down that hot-house that night.

We confess, though, that while we appreciated their subsequent “Ancient Melodies of the Future,” after the Yucatan our interest in BTS somewhat waned.  First to contribute to the ebbing was a good, but comparatively disappointing, show at Slim’s in San Francisco.  And then their “Live” record, with its 20-minute (each) Cortez the Killer and Broken Chairs cuts, left us reaching for the skip button.  And then the band went on hiatus and released a couple of, for us, marginally interesting records.

But when we heard the Club Mercy call and a couple of musically-respectable friends chimed in, we decided to venture down to the sold out show in Santa Barbara.

So we were somewhat surprised that when the band took the stage, we were immediately mesmerized again.   They led off with Liar off of 2006’s “You in Reverse” (one of those “marginally interesting” records we mentioned).  With his bobbing head and swelling vocals, Martsch (each time looking more and more, for you historians, like 20th U.S. President, James Garfield) drew us in.  It’s a great, newly-appreciated song, and for us was the highlight of the evening.  Which is not to say that the rest of the show was not similarly captivating, as the band’s head-tossing, lyric-echoing, dancing fans will attest.  Soho held a great, devoted crowd who knew every lyric to every song, and let the band hear it.  The band delivered all their “hits” with admirable aplomb, and we enjoyed the hirsute, melodious attack throughout.   But we may have been spoiled by the lofty-heights of that early Yucatan show and the brilliant immediacy of “Keep it Like a Secret.”  Perhaps it’s a mellowing with their and our age.  Who knows?  While we love this band and seeing them live, these days the passion has understandably played out a bit.  And that was the missing link for us Tuesday night.

Regardless, the band delivered a completely satisfying show to its sold out throng at Soho.

If you haven’t heard or listened recently to Liar, check it out below.  And if, for whatever reason, you haven’t heard Built to Spill at all, listen in to a few of our long-time favorites below it.

Built to Spill–Liar

[audio:https://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/03-Liar.mp3|titles=03 Liar]

Built to Spill–Carry the Zero

[audio:https://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/03-Carry-The-Zero.mp3|titles=03 Carry The Zero]

Built to Spill–Time Trap

Check out this song’s slow-burn build until the core of this gem kicks in at 2:04.

[audio:https://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/06-Time-Trap.mp3|titles=06 Time Trap]

Built to Spill–The Plan

[audio:https://www.thelefortreport.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/01-The-Plan1.mp3|titles=01 The Plan]

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