1994, Up Records
the sound: One of Built to Spill’s early albums, “There’s Nothing Wrong with Love,” has a coming-of-age sentimentality that’s fitting for an early recording in a long musical career. It holds all the childish wonder, awkwardness, foolish passion and unchecked creativity of middle school, without the embarrassment or fleeting fashions. In fact, Built to Spill is still rocking the quirky and jangly, angular and sometimes atonal, guitar-driven style they introduced in 1994 when this album was released. They’ve become known for catchy yet unpredictable guitar hooks, augmented by the unique voice of founder Doug Martsch. It’s honest indie rock with true musicianship and just enough fuck-all to typically be radio unfriendly. This album was self conscious and a little sloppy, like a first kiss. It begins defensively with “In the Morning,” organized chaos that ends abruptly. Right off, you get an idea of the different directions this album takes, both between songs and within them, one of the reasons it has staying power. Then comes “Reasons,” a sweet, sexy song that captures the possibilities of a new relationship and never gets old. It starts with the line, “You arrive and I’m on fire,” and ends with, “Stay with me until I die, there’s nothing else I want to try.” “Big Dipper” begins innocently with a childhood memory comparing the constellation to a brontosaurus (which, we now know, never existed), but becomes a sort of sing-along drinking song. The most adored song on the album is probably “Car,” which starts slow and builds up with a surprising string section. Clever as always, the chorus is, “I want to see movies of my dreams.” “Cleo” begins with the oh-so-emo, “Wiggly days, wiggly nights,” but carries on maturely with layered vocals and a staticky guitar solo. About a long lost love, “Twin Falls” is another ballad based on a childhood. “Some” seems to be about the stereotypes of school days, while “Israel’s Song” is about a boy learning to grow up and stand up for himself. The sense of humor and humility in this album might be dated, but it can still be appreciated. A melodic song about playing with oneself, “Fling” is good for giggles on the first listen. The bonus track is a sarcastic preview of the next album, with samples in different genres like pop-punk, contemporary country and, my favorite, a hardcore parody. “Kick you in the head and then I’ll kick you in the head and then I’ll kick you in head…”
the background: Guitarist and vocalist Martsch, formerly of Treepeople, formed Built to Spill in 1992 and is the only consistent band member of the three- to four-piece act. He signed onto Warner Brothers Records in 1995, just after “There’s Nothing Wrong with Love” was released, but has maintained relative creative freedom. The band’s latest and seventh full-length album, “There is no Enemy,” came out in October and they are currently touring overseas.
the significance: “There’s Nothing Wrong with Love” was an obvious fit in a rotation with Dinosaur Jr.’s “Where You Been,” Pavement’s “Crooked Rain” and Modest Mouse’s “This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About.” Subsequent albums were recorded on a major label and included anthems like “The Plan,” which solidified the band as one of the most well known lesser-known bands. With twangy influences, noisy interludes, vocal reverb, slightly longer songs and impressive solos, Built to Spill could be compared to such grownup bands as Wilco and My Morning Jacket. But there’s still the child at heart that we feel and love on this album, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
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