Built to Spill’s ‘Perfect From Now On’: Still Flawless at 25

Recording an album several times is rarely a good sign. Usually something like this is associated with artists who sell mega-sellers, your Mac Fleetwoods and such, and certainly not dead-in-the-wool indie rockers. But that’s what happened when Built to overflow debuted on a major label. Bandleader and guitar god Doug Martsch had tried recording it alone with drummer Peter Lansdowne but, unhappy with the results, he brought in Spinnanes drummer Scott Plouf and bassist Brett Nelson, both of whom had shot/recorded as part of Built To Spill before. , to make the record as a full band with producer Phil Ek. Unfortunately the tapes were destroyed when Ek, who also produced their 1994 album There’s nothing wrong with love, drove from Seattle to Boise to record overdubs. They had to start over.

In this case, however, the third time was the charm and Built to Spill’s perfectly flawed third album was released on January 28, 1997. It was an unlikely debut release for a band rising to the big leagues. While There’s nothing wrong with love was jam-packed with shambolic indie rock songs like “Big Dipper,” “In the Morning,” and “Distopian Dream Girl,” Perfect from now on was a sprawling guitar orgasm where most of the eight songs were six minutes long and none followed a traditional verse-chorus-verse format. Perfect from now on and Radiohead Ok Computer both seemed to prove prog was making inroads into indie rock in 1997, though Marstch bristled at the description.

“It seems to me that there are a lot of bands doing similar things to what we do – and just because the songs have different parts or tempo changes doesn’t mean they’re prog-rock. “, Martsch told Michael Roberts of Westword at the time, saying he had never listened to Yes, Genesis or similar bands. (King Crimson, though? Maybe.) “For me, songwriting is the main thing. Songs take me a long time to write, and a lot of ideas go through my head when I write them. But basically what do I try to make them interesting through and through, so you don’t get bored with them Like most people, I have a wide variety of influences and a lot of different aesthetics, and often I find two opposites equally appealing – and I see no reason why the two can’t be in the same song. I think just about anything can be successful in music and sound cool if you do it in an interesting way, and that’s what I try to do within the limits of my ability to sing and play guitar. were a better guitarist or a better singer, that would sound like prog-rock.

Psychedelic is probably a more appropriate term for Perfect from now on. Marstch displays wide-eyed wonder, both with his words and his instrument, trying to go as far as he can. “Randy Dedicated Eternity”, which opens the album and gives it its title, makes him look to the stars:

Every thousand years
This metallic sphere
Ten times the size of Jupiter
Floats a few meters from the Earth
If you climb on your roof
And throw a punch at it
With a single feather
Hit it once every thousand years
‘Til you wear it down
The size of a pea
Yeah, I’d say it’s long
But it’s only half a blink of an eye to where we’re gonna be

Perfect from now on isn’t an overly wordy album, but it does make the lyrics matter. (As on most BTS albums, Doug got some great help from his partner, poet Karena Youtz, on a few songs.) “You’ve thought of everything but some things can’t be thought of” (“Velvet Waltz” ); “Nobody Wants to Hear What You Dreamed About Unless You Dreamed About It” (“Made Up Dreams”); “We’re Special in Other Ways” (“Kicked it In the Sun”); and “I’d love to see it but it’s something you feel” (“Untrustable / Part 2 [About Someone Else]”) have stuck in my head for the past 25 years. Doug may not consider himself a very good singer, but his high-pitched scream, part of the reason he’s often compared to Neil Young, is spot on. for these songs.

What really dazzles is how the words intertwine with the melodies and musicality of Built to Spill. No song ends where it begins, and Martsch leads the band down the most twisting and surprising paths possible, full zigs, zags, time shifts, key shifts, focused noodles, transitions masterful, serious shredding and heavenly arrangements. Perfect from now on is full of happy transcendence: the cellos in “I Would Hurt a Fly” (courtesy John McMahon, the album’s secret weapon); a guitar watermark in the middle of “Kicked it in Sun” that looks like seagulls flying above crystal clear water at sunset; the fast, slippery guitar parts in “Untrustable”; the tattered glory of the last three minutes of “Velvet Waltz”. But the album’s most moving moment comes at 3:18 minutes into “Made Up Dreams,” when Marstch goes from “do it as you go” to “I’m already gone now” — the key changes. , the strings enter and suddenly everything is weightless. It rocks every time.

“I want to see the movies of my dreams”, he sang There’s nothing wrong with love remarkable, “Car”, and with Perfect from now on he made it happen.