Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Built To Spill’s 2006 album You In Reverse arrived on the heels of a middling solo LP from bandleader Doug Martsch, a turgid BTS record, and a long layoff, so it was an achievement just that Reverse felt like a proper Built To Spill album, filled with energetic, catchy rock and passionate, inventive guitar solos. For There Is No Enemy, Martsch and company move beyond that back-to-basics approach, delivering a polished record that favors lilting mid-tempo ballads over ear-blasting ragers. Fans may initially have trouble adjusting to the idea that rocking-out has become such a low priority, but at least There Is No Enemy isn’t as dreary as 2001’s similarly sluggish Ancient Melodies Of The Future. The songs on Enemy are much stronger, highlighted by the dreamy, jangly “Hindsight,” the torrential “Good Ol’ Boredom,” the cosmic, coda-riffic “Done,” and the brisk, rueful, and twangy “Planting Seeds.” And while Martsch has had some trouble in the past finding a sound in the studio that suits Built To Spill, this new album sounds astonishingly rich, and deepens with each spin as the layers of instrumentation—including horns, synths, and background vocals—peel away. Built To Spill may be roaring less often, but its presence still looms.


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