Monday, November 9, 2009
Artist: Built to Spill
Album: There Is No Enemy
Record Label: Warner Bros.
Release Date: 10/6/2009
Along with 90’s alternative rock bands Pavement and Yo La Tengo, Built to Spill’s longevity has bridged the gap of first generation alternative rockers such as The Pixies and Dinosaur Jr. with contemporary indie-rock mainstays including Death Cab for Cutie. These seasoned indie-rock veterans have withstood the test of time, releasing their seventh studio album this year, There Is No Enemy. And once again, the Boise natives have produced another solid, workmanlike effort in the mold of previous albums.
“Aisle 13” opens There Is No Enemy with their characteristic aggressive and energetic guitar riffs, accompanied by lead singer Doug Martsch’s insightful musings via his distinctive slight whine. The album treads forwards with the questioning track “Hindsight,” whose doubtful lyrics are nicely contrasted by a rather upbeat groove marked by a steel guitar’s warm presence. Throughout “Hindsight,” Martsch continuously reflects on the downside of looking back on life, as he comments “they don't want to think about the other side / is that grass just greener cuz it's fake.”
As the album progresses, Built to Spill’s best efforts are often seen in their steadiness in every single track, providing a complete work of high quality. Mid-album highlights include the energetic, driving “Good Ol’ Boredom,” a blistering ode to a deceased friend in “Pat,” and “Done”—which mirrors their 2006 track “The Wait.”
As There Is No Enemy nears its end, the album reaches one of its finest moments with “Things Fall Apart,” an earnest confession of self-doubt and warning. This dark, melancholy ballad warily cautions those from coming to close, as Martsch suggests, “if no one thinks of no one / then no one believes in no one / and no one fucks with no one / when no one's afraid of no one.” As the track floats along, “Things Fall Apart” becomes increasingly reminiscent of another 2006 song “Saturday.”
Built to Spill has created a reputation for themselves over the years for producing consistently respectable albums, and There Is No Enemy is no exception. Yet despite, being an enjoyable album, it falls short of the band’s finer moments dating back to their earlier career. At the same time, this album does not stray particularly far from their 2006 album You In Reverse. However, where There Is No Enemy stands depends how you view the album—which comes down one question: is Built to Spill settling on their merits, or are these seasoned veterans simply feeling comfortable in their own shoes. Depending on how you answer this question, your opinion on There Is No Enemy will vary accordingly.