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Issue Forty-Nine // June 2002


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SHOW REVIEW: Built to Spill
House of Blues - November 7 (Hollywood, CA)

By: Rick Cipes

Warning: This review will not utilize any witty or sentimental allusions to 9-11, because frankly, every writer seems to be doing so, and aren't we all getting a little sick of the hype?

Speaking of hype, front man for Built to Spill, Doug Martsch has oft been compared to Neil Young, and I have to say, I have seen Neil Young live and Doug Martsch is no Neil Young.

Ok, so I'm starting off on a positive note, but if you had to sit through five minute guitar tunings between EVERY song, and frequent "do-overs" accompanied by apologies, you may be a little pissy, too.

Built to Spill, the threesome out of Boise, Idaho, were signed by Warner Brothers in the indie-rock signing flurry of the mid-90's, and their new album, Ancient Melodies of the Future, is their last under contract to Bugs and Co. If I had to guess, there won't be a re-signing. Don't get me wrong, it's not that they're not talented, because they are. Their fusion of distorted classic rock, space-grunge, and a little punk, has garnered them a loyal and impressive cult following, just not enough to sustain warranting being on a major label. (These guys will not be breaking out on KROQ any time soon.) As for Spilt's act on stage, this is where I felt like taking one of their guitars and executing my best Pete Townshend move, in an attempt to wake these shoe-gazers up and alert them to the fact that people are paying money to watch them, not kicking back in their garage at three in the morning drinking brews.

The packed house did start out pumped, but gradually grew antsy, as evidenced by the many mack-fests I witnessed going in several nooks and crannies of the room. The head-bopping, core faithful responded most favorably to material from the band's 1997 release, Perfect From Now On, songs with actual modulations, but then were brought crashing back down to earth when they ended and the tunings began.

I'm aware that their casual, low-fi approach is all part of the act...the "We're really down-to-earth and unpretentious, and spit in the general direction of rock stars"...but would a little polish and momentum turn their loyal grungemeisters against them? It may even attract a few new fans who didn't have the benefit of listening to one of their pretty cool albums beforehand.

Perhaps the show was best summed up by a Silver Lake slacker behind me, who remarked during one of the Guitar Tuning-101 sessions, "Their music is great, but it's boring."

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