Friday, September 10, 2010

FDF Volume 2: Issue 199 - Built to Spill - Keep it Like a Secret

By: March

Album - Keep it Like a Secret
Artist - Built to Spill
Key Players - Scott Plouf - drums. Brett Nelson - bass. Doug Martsch - guitar and vocals.
Produced By - Phil Ek and Doug Martsch

Release Date - February 22, 1999

What caused me to blow off the dust?
- The other day the song "the Plan" came up on shuffle on my iPod from the their live album. I love(d) that song and realized it had been a long time since I went to the studio record. Its that simple..oh..and they are touring like mad men

Overview - Based out of Boise, Idaho Built to Spill have released seven full length albums. The album featured this week was the bands fourth, but second on a major label. Although leader Doug Martsch had intended to be the sole member with a rotating cast of players come this record Nelson and Plouf were full time members. The band would slowly gain momentum with this release and a Live album put out in 2000 would further solidify them as indie rock icons. The album would (and continues) to receive accolades. In 1999 Pitchfork voted the record album the 41st most important album of the 90's.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - With one guitar riff "The Plan" begins. Right out of the gates the whole band fires off. Its a wall of sound and Martsch has a unique vocal style to really add to it. For just three guys its a big, full sound. Nelson crawls over the frets on his bass while Plouf keeps a strong, but heavy beat. There are some great tempo changes, but the song is just so "full" it is hard to not fall in love. An awesome album opener and the first song I'd play for anyone that ever asked me "What does the band sound like". Great stuff. Even with the quick guitar runs and short solos the whole band is equal in the mix, a precedence laid out from the outset. "Center of the Universe" has an odd guitar intro, sort of a phase, meets twang. I am not doing it justice in these words. Plouf gets the band on task quick while Nelson runs these "chugging" bass riffs. The quirky guitar returns after the chorus, wish I had a good word to describe it. It is not bad at all, just something you don't always hear. Martsch has a buzzy guitar before it gets a lot more calm at the start of "Carry the Zero". He is almost playful with the notes as the bass and drums build the back side of the song. You can almost pick out a strong acoustic guitar chord progression, but its not that prominent. The brightness can be heard, but Martsch has a great early electric guitar solo that compliments it well. This song seems to have a little more "sing along" quality to it. The band is very full, and you have to remember it is just three guys (sure there are overdubs..but still). Just the "fullness" is something to behold. Towards the 4 minute mark the band gets together and hammers it out strong, wrapping up with a real strong jam, worth repeating. "Sidewalk" opens with the full band at a quick tempo. Plouf gets to work out on the drums but Nelson has his bass up in your face too. After a few bars the vocals come in and the whole band gets more urgent. By this fourth song you realize the band is very focused, and are comfortable with their roles. No instrument is buried in the mix, you hear it all. Up to this point this one of the quicker songs on the record, but don't let that fool you. The band likes to do curious breakdowns of tempo which is nice and it allows the band to re-focus and one person may strike a chord and the band feeds from that. "Bad Light" has a guitar trill, but a very focused guitar over dubbed at the start. The bass and drum are brought up as the guitar riff is repeated for a few bars then Plouf gets things rolling. The band is even more free on this with the extensive jam and time changes that are only offset but short vocal runs. The song hardly fades before "Time Trap" begins. Martsch works some buzzy guitar but the Nelson bass portion is clean and swooping. Just a terrific vibe on the bass guitar. For the first two minutes you are treated to just an instrumental wall of sound. It is just focused and driving, it is just..ohhh good. The song slows some as the vocals begin and the instruments seem to ease up to allow for the vocals to be higher in the mix. We are treated to another great instrumental section and Nelson has his bass right up, the only bummer is this one fades well before you are ready. A stand out track. "Else" begins similar to others with a short guitar run before the band comes in. It is a slower feeling song that others but it is not a ballad by any means. Once again though as the track progresses there is a great musical interlude that the guitar and bass just swallow you up. Plouf keeps the tempo in check, but the bass is just this swirling slice of excellence and once again before you know it the song is ending. "You Were Right" opens with an overdubbed guitar, one squealing over the top and a second fulling more chords. The song has this great blend as well, with only hold backs occurring during the verses. There is a great guitar portion about 1:15 in to the track where Martsch gets choppy but the song keeps its strong focus. This occurs a few times over. Vocals come up quick on "Temporarily Blind". Here there is more of a slide guitar that is being used. This song has a terrific interlude with choppy guitar feeding off the drums. It cuts right in to you begging you to pay attention, it works so well they do it a few more times, with each having a verse or solo filling any gap, yet another stand out track. The album concludes with "Broken Chairs". It feels "darker" than most of the album and we get a pretty familiar vibe both musically and vocally. We get an extended solo on the guitar as well as full band jam but for some reason it is lacking some of the things that kept other jams fun. Not a bad album closer, just expectations got to be so high.

Where are they now? - Built to Spill are still active both in studio and as a live band. They have also expanded beyond three members.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience)
- September 17, 2001 was the first and only time I've seen the band live. It was a the Paradise in Boston and it was part of a multiple night run. Tension was still in the air as we were only 6 days beyond the terrorist attacks. The room was tense but once the night of music began everyone seemed to ease up some. The highlight was a terrific cover of "What is Live" originally by George Harrison. They are touring my area like crazy right now but I can't seem to get to them. Last time they were here I was in Disney..just can't catch up!

FDF Overall Take - This was the introduction to the band for me, and I fell in love with them. They still are making good records and are decent enough live to garner your support. I strongly suggest this record, or if you are new to the band and are curious their Live cd is a terrific place to start. If you want to start flashing your "indie cred" around, this is a good place to start.


Official site is here and one of a few
fan pages
The band on myspace

Check out some clips!

A live version of the band doing M.I.A's Paper Planes
The Plan


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