Review Summary: Not a bad album, but an ultimately disappointing one as some great ideas contained within most tracks are not fully capitalized on.
When Built To Spill condensed the lengthy songs from their critically acclaimed 1997 album 'Perfect From Now On' into bite-size portions for the follow-up 'Keep It Like A Secret', it resulted in close to Indie-Rock perfection. An album that was still undoubtedly ingrained in its genre due to it's guitar-work and intelligent song structures, yet could appeal more to the mainstream with it's borderline poppiness and accessibility.
The next step was fairly predictable and with their 5th album 'Ancient Melodies of the Future' the band attempted to bring the 2 components (read: lengths) of the 2 albums together to please everybody. The problem with that theory was that 'Keep It Like A Secret' pretty much pleased everybody anyway, so there really was no need to tinker with the process all that much. With their 6th album 'You In Reverse', Built To Spill return after a 5 year absence and give it a another go. While the results are a little better this time around, it is still clearly not up to their best form.
While it is actually in the better half of the tracks contained on this album, the near 9 minute opener 'Goin Against Your Mind' shows some of the band's weaknesses. Traveling along for 2 minutes before Doug Martsch's vocals finally kick in, this pleasingly up-tempo track almost aims at the mainstream with its chorus, but it just doesn't quite come off. And while there are riffs aplenty in the instrumental breakdown, it simply drags out for too long ultimately.
There is a nice duo of songs that follow though, as 'Traces' is a real grower which eventually is judged my album highlight. It is a smooth mid-tempo track that is packed with melody, yet mixes in all kinds of guitar techniques and very good drumming. This all results in an especially satisfying song. Follow-up 'Liar' is not too dissimilar, but instead concentrates its hooks on the vocal harmonies to good effect.
Track 6 'Conventional Wisdom' could well be the barometer of this album as it is in parts the best song here, but also the most disappointing in a way. The first half of its 6+ minute duration is absolutely fantastic as it shows that Built To Spill can rock just as raucously as a hard rock band, yet still add in their trademark indie-rock melodies and intelligence. Yet, the latter half of the track is basically an extended jamming session that does it no favors and in no way strengthens the song.
Elsewhere, there are some neat melodies and impressive guitar-playing, but it is all a little too haphazard for my liking. Longtime fans are sure to be impressed by 'Mess With Time' and closer 'The Wait', but neither are complete in my books and end up being anything too far above average.
This isn't a bad album, but Built To Spill may have unfortunately become the victim of their own quality following their 2 best albums. They have simply shown that they are capable of better. There isn't enough that stands out here and their lack of capitalizing on great ideas contained within some tracks is ultimately disappointing.
Recommended Tracks: Traces, Conventional Wisdom & Liar.