Built To Spill @ Stubbs (10/24)


Date 10/24
Location Stubbs
Doors 7pm
Tickets $25 from Frontgate

The great pioneers of indie rock Built to Spill are making a return to Austin at Stubbs on Saturday night.  Fellow groundbreaking artist Dinosaur Jr. along with Lou Barlow, and Disco Doom will also be on hand to make this one of those can’t miss nights.  Built to Spill are currently touring in support of their brand new record There is No Enemy which we reviewed recently.

[audio: https://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/Built-to-Spill-Hindsight.mp3]

Download: Built to Spill – Hindsight [MP3]

Built to Spill – There is No Enemy

built-to-spill-there-is-no-Rating: ★★★☆☆

You know who Built to Spill is and you all know if you love them or hate them.  In my short time here at Austin Town Hall there has been no band that has brought about such highly contested debates as Built to Spill.  It’s undeniable that we here at ATH are fans of this band, but none of us can say we are diehard fans of their catalog as a whole. Some of us swear by the lo-fi pop sensibility of There is Nothing Wrong With Love, while others lean more towards the meandering rhythms of Perfect from Now On or Keep It Like A Secret. Don’t even get me started on the oft-shunned (Ancient Melodies of the Future) or critically-acclaimed but forgotten (You in Reverse) albums. 

I must say from the get go that, in this reviewers eye (ears?), Built to Spill have earned a lifetime pass as far as new records are concerned.  Each release is technically proficcent and good, but different levels of “good”.  They can range from “absolutely fantastic” to “this could be much worse”.  A bad Built to Spill record is still exponentially better than other bands great records.

So where does Built to Spill’s new album, There is No Enemy, reside? Is it too poppy? Is it too jammy? Is it fantastic or could it be much worse? Strangely enough you could answer yes to all those questions.  The eleven tracks on There is No Enemy range for short bursts of Dinosaur Jr.-like speed (Pat and Aisle 13) to the more drawn out and introspective (Life’s A Dream and Things Fell Apart).  While There is No Enemy is a completely listenable album, it fails to bring anything new and exciting.  Say what you want about Built To Spill’s previous two albums, there were at least one or two tracks that showed the band’s progression, even if it sounded like reggae.  But with this new offering the songs often fall flat.  There is a moment at the three minute mark of Life’s a Dream where a new riff begins that’s punctuated by a brass section. At that moment I felt what I felt when I first heard Untrustable, Part Two or Carry the Zero, but that moment was fleeting.

This is the problem with giving bands lifetime passes.  On one hand they continue releasing competent albums, but often times they are just that, nothing more.

Built to Spill will be playing at Stubbs on Saturday, October 24 with Dinosaur Jr. and Lou Barlow & the Missingmen

New Tunes from Built to Spill

Built-to-Spill-leanbackThe band that brought you one of the best albums of the 90s (that being There’s Nothing Wrong with Love), Built to Spill, is up to their old tricks.  They’ve got a new album heading our way on October 6th titled There Is No Enemy, not to mention a show lined up for October 24th.  Here’s the recent track, “Hindsight.”


Download: Built to Spill – Hindsight [MP3]

Throw Me the Statue – Creaturesque

creaturesque-throw_me_the_statue_480Rating: ★★★½☆

It seems that Scott Reitherman has finally found a consistent group of musicians to flesh out his songs, as the new Throw Me The Statue album, Creaturesque is steps above the band’s first album, Moonbeams. Sure, it’s their second album, so we’re expecting growth and maturity, but it’s so far beyond where that first album began that it’s worth giving credit where credit is due.

When the guitar tinkering begins the album on “Waving at the Shore,” you begin to wonder if you’re in for another lo-fi production a la every other record this year. But, clarity coincides with the introduction with Scott’s vocals.  His control over his inflection and delivery is noticeable throughout the song, and it’s one of the more charming aspects of the group.  Here, you will also find a steady barrage of carefully crafted horn blasts; it’s just a slight extra element, but it elevates the song.

Inclusion of extra elements typically is meant to add a certain sense of depth, and while Throw Me the Statue could surely hold their own without it it, these little flourishes complete the sonic soundscape of the album as a whole, bringing it to completion by filling in every inch of space, yet never becoming overbearing. “Ancestors” is the prime exhibit of this tactic.  The song waivers in fullness and depth, but then switches to the intimacy of singer-songwriter near the end, complimenting both elements by capturing a diverse sound in song.

Oddly, one of the elements that has been predominant since the band’s inception, the keyboard/electronica, is one of the drawbacks that exists here.  For instance, “Hi Fi Goon” opens with this little piece, but the sound itself is sort of juvenile and generic.  Sure, it’s definitely meant to help push the songs in a certain direction, but when it’s used so often, it seems to act as a cloak for some of the weaker moments in the group’s song dynamic.  It would be great to see the band stripped of this crutch, as Reitherman surely has the intoxicating pipes to keep us interested.

“Baby You’re Bored” is one of the album’s shorter songs, but it is the pure contradiction to the previous paragraph, as it’s a stripped down song entirely.  It recalls a more contained Band of Horses or early Built to Spill, both which hailed, at one point or another, from the Norhwest just like Throw Me the Statue.  The song is a success, and one can hope that the approach may be used more often in the future.

Creaturesque is a solid record, surely, despite a few little missteps.  It’s clever where it needs to be, and it’s wonderfully constructed from beginning to end.  One more album and the group will surely be on their way to winning over everyone with their electronic-folk pop.

New Tunes from Helvetia

helvetiaSwiss transplant Jason Albertini is now living in the Northwest, and his music with Helvetia is easily influenced by the sounds of the area, not to mention his recordings, since he’s been joined by Scott Plouf of Built to Spill.  His new album, Helvetia’s Junk Shop, will be released this September on Static Cult. This recording sounds a bit muddy, but it the vocals definitely meander through the song as you would expect from a band in this region. Here’s “Leading Towards an End.”


Download: Helvetia – Leading Towards an End [MP3]

The Glands – The Glands

Rating: ★★★★★

The Glands released this album in 2000.  I came across it a little after that via good taste.  This has been an album that consistently comes into my playlist year after year after year.  For me, it’s the perfect album, and one I will listen to for years.

When the alarm bell rings in “Livin Was Easy” you know that you’re in for an awakening.  Here we come across the dirty driving guitar work made famous by Built to Spill on Nothing Wrong with Love. Singing about a time when things were easier, Russ Shapiro wins you over on the opening track.

Then comes “Swim.”  It’s full of a trouncing piano beat that keeps the pace for the entire song.  There’s no choice other than to bob your head with this track.  I often use this on mix tapes for friends, and I’ve never heard a complaint.

Suddenly, the pace is flipped up.  The band offers a slow burner here in “Mayflower,” which resembles a lot of present day dream pop.  The guitar shoots off into the background of the song, as Shapiro slowly soothes you with his voice. Special.

“Lovetown” is up next.  It sounds an awful lot like Dear Catastrophe Waitress-era Belle and Sebastian.  The difference is that The Glands were here first.  Lyrics are kind of sparse here, but the song drives on through, pushing you with the fuzziest of bass lines.

Afterwards, you get the rushing pace of “Straight Down,” which is just a solid rock track.  Everything about this song epitomizes what indie pop was all about in the early days, before it got too bogged down with seven member collectives and such.

If you like a little alt-country in your ears, then you can grab hold of “Fortress.”  The vocals match every inch of this song–almost as if Shapiro is walking you slowly escorting you through his words.  He brings it down just a bit, then blasts straight into “Work It Out.”  Everything about this song sounds extremely modern, yet it precedes its own sound.

“Ground” is a song that brings us back to a lot of the dreaminess in pop music.  You could leave out the lyrics and still find yourself traveling through this song with ease.  I guess a popular way to label this song is to throw out that word ambient. There you go, I did it.

I love “Favorite American.”  It’s an acoustic number accompanied by some interesting reverb on the vocals, which give it that dark bubbling effect that Black Rebel Motorcycle Club seem to have perfected.  It’s got a political undertone, but it’s one that would only become relevant a few years following the release of the album, so decipher the code.

In the closing three minutes, “Breathe Out” kind of lets me out.  It’s not a bad song by any means, it just doesn’t hold up to the rest of the album.  There is some light synthesizer that awkwardly keeps track of time, while the vocals just sort of float in midair.

Fans of Grandaddy, Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, Flaming Lips, Wilco and The Wrens will all find themselves loving this album.  You can even say that a lot of those bands followed in the steps of The Glands, but their short-lived career makes it hard to assess their lasting effects.

I know it’s hard to take the words of another man on buying something that you’ve never heard of in your life, or perhaps you have, but take my word here.  Go to iTunes and buy this.  You will thank me for it later on, or I hope you do.

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