Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Built to Spill

  • Ultimate Alternative Wavers [C/Z, 1992] *
  • There's Nothing Wrong With Love [Up, 1994] A-
  • Perfect from Now On [Warner Bros., 1997] B+
  • Keep It Like a Secret [Warner Bros., 1999] **
  • Live [Warner Bros., 2000] A-
  • You in Reverse [Warner Bros., 2006] ***
  • There Is No Enemy [Warner Bros., 2010] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Ultimate Alternative Wavers [C/Z, 1992]
ah sweet mystery of youth, extracting form from chaos and candy from dirt ("Nowhere Nothin' Fuckup," "Three Years Ago Today") *

There's Nothing Wrong With Love [Up, 1994]
Biz big boys of both sexes are besieging Doug Martsch, and why not? Guy's yoked his fully realized guitar style to material even more mature than that--how rare it is for a rock and roll dad to write songs about childhood that don't trade self-pitying adolescent sentimentality for self-congratulatory adult sentimentality. So you know what Doug Martsch tells the big boys? That he likes Idaho--and his family--too much to hit the rock and roll road. Here's hoping he can turn a modest profit while sticking to the essence of this decision, one of the sanest antistar biases in all indiedom. And here's hoping he keeps writing those songs and playing that guitar. A-

Perfect from Now On [Warner Bros., 1997]
"In a world that's not so bad," Doug Martsch builds a hideout worth visiting--more tree house than basement or cave, with hooks for footholds and misty guitar vistas when you finish the climb. Not a loner, just a small-town kind of guy, he derives his idea of the social from his experience of the musical. So when he says, "You won't help anyone/cause you're unusable," he can't possibly be talking about himself. I hope. B+

Keep It Like a Secret [Warner Bros., 1999]
Like grunge never unhappened ("You Were Right," "Center of the Universe"). **

Live [Warner Bros., 2000]
The holy purpose of Doug Martsch's songwriting is the riffs it feeds his guitar. Lyrics that poke into the tribulations and satisfactions of indie life may be worth excavating, may even convince us that for Martsch small-town life is an end in itself. In fact, however, he treasures low-overhead slackerdom for affording the physical time and spiritual space where musical epiphanies can flourish--for providing the raw material of its own transcendence. As much as Martsch's turbulent flow owes J Mascis, Neil Young is definitely the godfather--so that when Martsch launches a 20-minute "Cortez the Killer" you may forget what record you've got on until you realize how much louder Martsch's cannonading repetitions are. There's no folk rock in him--and, for that pomo touch, plenty of computer. A-

You in Reverse [Warner Bros., 2006]
Like Uncle Neil says, "It's all one song--except for that flamenco thing" ("Conventional Wisdom," "Mess With Time"). ***

There Is No Enemy [Warner Bros., 2010] Dud

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