Built to Spill delivers honesty, if not innovativeness

After 15 years, the band has found a sweet spot, and is sticking to it.
Indie rock band Built to Spill smirks with happiness over the release of their latest album _There Is No Enemy_. Fans warmly received the album released Wednesday. Courtesy of WEA/Reprise

It's not uncommon for a band to release two or three great albums and then gradually teeter off into nothingness. Built to Spill does not fit that mold.

This band has steadily created fantastically consistent records since its debut in 1994, Ultimate Alternative Wavers. This year brings There is No Enemy, the follow-up to its critically acclaimed 2006 album, You In Reverse.

Three and a half years in the making, Enemy, released Oct. 6 on Warner Bros. Records, is certainly what fans have been hoping Built to Spill would put out.

"It's getting pretty routine at this point," lead singer and founding member Doug Martsch said. "It's not like we're going to make a big splash or anything. We don't get too excited about things."

But this is exactly what Built to Spill fans have been waiting for and come to expect from them. They've become known for their clear-cut, bullshit-free, indie-rock in both their live shows and recordings — a fact clearly reiterated with There is No Enemy. Built upon layers of guitars and Martsch's nasally singing that fans have become accustomed to, Enemy doesn't really deviate much from the pattern Built to Spill has been following since recording their earliest albums.

Admittedly, this pattern doesn't usually lead to success for other bands, but it's the sound fans have grown to love.

This idea has made their recent live shows a lot more interesting as well. Last week during their show at The Pageant in St. Louis, Built to Spill only played one new song off Enemy and spent the other part of the night digging back deep into their extensive catalog to play unexpected songs.

"People really haven't heard (There Is No Enemy) yet," Martsch said.

Having this mindset and performing like this makes a touring Built to Spill seem a bit more special and a bit less like an attempt to promote their latest album, a refreshing change in a music industry that is seemingly fueled only by ticket and record sales. With Pitchfork reviewing the album and long-time fans spreading the word around the indie-rock community, does Built to Spill really need a tour dedicated solely to Enemy?

Although Enemy only gives a Built to Spill beginner a small peek at the vastness of the band and their catalog, it gives listeners a pretty good idea of what they have been doing and sounding like successfully for 15 years.

There Is No Enemy was recorded in a similar way to the other albums — Martsch wrote lyrics and brought them in for the band to figure out instrumentally by jamming and running ideas off of each other. In their live shows, the band is known for turning these songs into something completely different with an ending jam session, again, something else not seen by a lot of bands today.

Yes, as previously mentioned, this record doesn't really do anything innovative or anything the band hasn't done already. But this well-crafted record reeks of honesty and reflects exactly what Built to Spill has grown comfortable doing and what fans have grown to love.

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