Doug Martsch
Now You Know


3.5
great

Review

by Ben Borneman USER (11 Reviews)
June 11th, 2009 | 20 replies | 5,177 views


Release Date: 2002 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Campfire Built To Spill featuring acoustic slide...

3 of 3 thought this review was well written

Some albums are soundtracks for summer. Some albums are the voice of an entire generation. Some albums are like a weekend camping trip with your quirky uncle Doug. That is, if your uncle happens to be indie-guitar hero Doug Martsch of Built To Spill fame. On his lone solo album Now You Know, everybody’s favorite Idahoan uncle loads up the wagon, stocks the cooler, and takes us out to the woods so that we can become better acquainted. Don’t worry pre-teens, Uncle Doug looks a little strange and his voice is a tad high, but you have nothing to fear (it’s not that kind of camping trip).

What becomes clear almost immediately is that Doug has been doing some serious soul-searching. It seems he’s discovered slide guitar and the lyrical qualities it affords him in songwriting. He’s been studying the masters and has developed some pretty cool licks. There’s no mistaking him for Robert Johnson or Muddy Waters, but it is evident that he’s picked up on their techniques. Much more another means of creative expression than a tribute to the Delta Blues, Now You Know is littered with jangly guitar-driven tracks which sound more like stripped-down Built To Spill than traditional blues.

In all seriousness, Now You Know feels like an intimate glimpse into the personal triumph and tragedy of this solemn figure. The lyrics are mostly straight forward and allow the listener some opportunity for personal interpretation. Lines such as “Now you should know by now, it’s a small sound that holds you down” are genius to some (i.e. this reviewer) and unremarkable to others. The instrumentation here is sparse, with only a handful of songs containing some semblance of a standard rock arrangement. You will encounter small doses of non-traditional percussion and cello, as well some instrumental and vocal overdubs on the album’s eleven tracks, but these merely fill the acoustic space and serve to enhance Doug Martsch’s sprightly arrangements.

Sadly, the tempo of Now You Know never rises above that of a Neil Young-esque stomp. Album opener “Offer” starts things off briskly, but it isn’t long before things slow to a crawl. There is a distinct lack of drive toward the album’s middle section, likely resulting from the minimalist approach found on many of these tracks. While many songs are hauntingly beautiful (Dream, Impossible), others are campy (Woke Up This Morning) or simply irritating (Gone). Make no mistake; despite some standout material, this is a difficult record to enjoy in its entirety.

Perhaps it is largely the nature of the beast with this acoustically-focused album, but the vocal performance delivered by Martsch on Now You Know has an immediacy noticeably absent from nearly everything in the BTS back catalog. This truly is an intimate performance. Never before (or since, for that matter) has Doug sounded so fragile, so fallibly human. Some dismiss his voice as high-pitched, whiney, nasally, etc., and they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. However, once you make it past the surface you find a very earnest performer, totally capable conveying complex emotions through song. Despite some miscues, Doug Martsch’s foray into solo acoustic work is pretty damn good, and a must for any Built To Spill fan. So now you know.



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user ratings (9)
Chart.
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
WatchItExplode
June 11th 2009



3228 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

What happened to my italics? BTS fans, get this.

thebhoy
Emeritus
June 11th 2009



4459 Comments


I will get this.

WatchItExplode
June 12th 2009



3228 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

No love whatsoever for the Martsch man, very sad indeed.

ClearTheLane
June 18th 2009



990 Comments


I got this just now. Doug is a genius. High expectations, although this album doesn't seem to be regarded as a huge success...

WatchItExplode
June 18th 2009



3228 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

don't let the early middle turn you off...dream and impossible are two of my favorite Doug-penned tunes ever

But yeah, Doug's voice + slide guitar doesn't scream accessability

PuddleSwimmer
June 26th 2009



1457 Comments


I'm definitely out to get this today or tomorrow

Foxhound
January 16th 2010



4570 Comments


Good review but not something I'm to interested in.

Athom
Staff Reviewer
January 16th 2010



17204 Comments


i had no idea this existed. i'm so getting this now.

Kiran
Emeritus
January 16th 2010



6001 Comments


whaaaaaat, he has solo material?! need

Athom
Staff Reviewer
January 16th 2010



17204 Comments


i dunno what to think of this.

WatchItExplode
January 16th 2010



3228 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It funny for me to imagine people listening to this for the first time if they aren't BTS fanboys.

Adam Thomas you think 2.5, but you're wrong.

Athom
Staff Reviewer
January 16th 2010



17204 Comments


i was more like a 3-3.5. it's just so...

WatchItExplode
January 16th 2010



3228 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Jangly? Grating? Yeah, I was too generous with my rating. The album has a few gaping holes but IMO starts and finishes strong with a few amazing standouts.

Athom
Staff Reviewer
January 16th 2010



17204 Comments


it's getting over that for my mind doug martsch =/= acoustic blues

WatchItExplode
January 16th 2010



3228 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Then remind yourself that this isn't acoustic blues, and that Dream captures a sense of mystery and longing most aren't aware actually exist, yet alone can be translated sonically.

HankHillsAcidTrip
February 17th 2010



35 Comments


I was a little disappointed by this at first, and I stopped listening. But I started it again later, and it's actually got some pretty cool songs on it.

WatchItExplode
February 18th 2010



3228 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I just love dream to death...every time I listen to it a tear wells up

Athom
Staff Reviewer
November 20th 2010



17204 Comments


I'm now convinced that Impossible is one of the best songs he's ever penned.

thebhoy
Emeritus
November 20th 2010



4459 Comments


ughhhh this is the only thing I'm missing from my Doug Marstch relic

ExcentrifugalForz
February 26th 2014



1707 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

sounds very much like BTS demos

the album really gets good half way through

Digging: Renaissance - Grandine il Vento



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