Review Summary: "I've gotta be perfect from now on"
Classic albums have that certain appeal to them that draws such a loyal fan base. The emotional weight of Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
, the grandiose soundscapes of Godspeed You Black Emperor!’s Lift Your Skinny Fists...
, the perfect pop of The Beatle’s Revolver
or the technical prowess of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue
; all give these albums a timeless quality that makes them classics in their own right. Then there’s Built to Spill’s Perfect From Now On
which is perfect (pardon the pun) for one simple reason: It’s ***ing awesome. To delve into the tired story of how Built to Spill went from making fun and poppy indie rock to emotionally weighty and epically grandiose guitar heroics on Perfect From Now On
, seems alternately useless and intrinsic. You just can’t ignore it, because it simply adds to the awesomeness of the album. It’s a surprise akin to Radiohead’s OK Computer
, which should prove a sufficient enough comparison to leave it at that. Plus the main reason that this album is so well regarded is, after all, the music.
And it’s around the middle of “Velvet Waltz” that I realize, “goddam, my mind just got blown again”.
It’s the perfect symmetry of tension and release that makes “Velvet Waltz” perhaps the best thing Built to Spill have recorded. The clean guitars sweep you away while the distorted psychedelic wails simmer just under the surface. The climax of the song isn’t necessarily due to volume, but rather the continuous layering of instrumentation and the dynamic shift when lead man Doug Martsch rises an octave to belt, “You better just enjoy / The luxury of sympathy / If that’s a luxury you have / And you know no private bad” as the cello plays the main guitar riff from the intro. The drums finally fill out and those psychedelic guitars burst from beneath the mix and rip the remaining four minutes to shreds. Tension and release also lift some of the shorter tracks (well one of two under six minutes) into a more significant territory. Martsch’s keen eye for vocal melody brightens the end of “Made-Up Dreams” into transcendental territory. The excellent “I Would Hurt A Fly” flirts with a somber cello solo before it decides to rock your socks off in its latter half. It’s this attention to song writing that makes Perfect From Now On
such an awesome experience all the way through, even when the songs begin to feel schizophrenic.
“Stop the Show” has an extended, brooding intro before it crescendos into an up tempo rocker that has enough dynamic shifts in the last minute to make Damon Che blush. The entire album is made up of plenty of these angular moments that seem at odds with what precedes and follows it. But as the truest testament to how awesome this record is, it all works and feels completely necessary to the album. Epic closer, “Untrustable / Part 2 (About Someone Else)” begins as a breezy and mellow jam before completely changing directions in the latter half. It’s a subtle change and key that brightens the song and brings it into a poppier area, especially with another memorable vocal melody from Martsch who asks, “what are you gonna do"” This attention to detail is found on every square inch of this record. It doesn’t hurt that the musicians themselves have a bit of skill to show. More then any of the other indie band, Built to Spill are able to mix technicality and accessibility into the instrumentation.
Scott Plouf is exceptional behind the kit as he provides the backbone for the sprawling tracks like, “Kicked It In the Sun”. Second Guitarist and bass player Brett Nelson also adds a great deal of flavour to some tracks. For example, while the end of “Velvet Waltz” is mainly a showcase for the effects riddled guitar work of Martsch, it remains grounded by the elastic bass run of Nelson which is just subtle enough to allow the guitars to shine while never fading into the background entirely. Still, the main instrument here is the guitar work. Martsch writes very layered melodies and riffs for the guitars that work off each other. The song writing is complex enough to be an interesting study while remaining fun enough to simply just enjoy the music. After all, especially with a genre such as indie, it’s mostly about making music that is fun first and foremost. The fact that Built to Spill can add blazing guitar solos is simply an added bonus.
This album is simply a must own for any indie kid, but it doesn’t stop there. The guitar work will also please many resident metal heads and classic rock kids who have an open mind towards music. While it’s not shredding, finger tapping guitar work, it’s still impressively arranged and perfectly executed. The song writing is fantastic and the vocal melodies are memorable. To reiterate, Perfect From Now On
is just purely awesome and there’s no better way to describe it then that.