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Built To Spill

There Is No Enemy

[Warner Bros.; 2009]

By ; October 19, 2009 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

The best artists are often haunted by their past. Stick around long enough to see bands that grew up on your sound start to imitate it, or meet fans that treat your albums as gospel, able to recite every lyric and conjure up every note, and it can leave you in an impossible position. Some bands drastically change their sound, looking to grow artistically while separating themselves from an identity forged by their early material. But an even larger number of them simply break up. After 2001’s disappointing Ancient Melodies of the Future, Built to Spill took a long break.

“Make up your mind, make up your own mythology,” Doug Marsh sings on There Is No Enemy’s “Planting Seeds.” He could easily be talking about the singular vision that shaped the two albums that largely defined the band and helped shape the sound of indie rock in the previous decade, 1997’s Perfect From Now On and 1999’s Keep it Like a Secret. While 2006’s You in Reverse sounded tentative, only occasionally hinting at the brilliance that so many fans of guitar-based rock fell in love with, There Is No Enemy sounds confident. They’ve created an album that sounds less like a patchwork and works as a whole, and more importantly, they sound like a real band again.

“Hindsight” could easily fit on Keep it Like a Secret, with textbook indie-rock hooks and a concise structure, and “Pat” is Built to Spill at their most economical and aggressive, but many of the highlights of the album are the mellower moments. “Life’s A Dream” features some unexpected harmonies that provide a welcome relief from the serious nature of the lyrics, and “Things Fall Apart” could easily sit alongside the very best of the band’s songs.

There is No Enemy is far from perfect. There are some prodding moments, most noticeably during the middle section of the record, especially on “Oh Yeah,” but as a whole this is the strongest record they’ve put out in a decade and a welcome return to form. Like Dinosaur Jr, Built to Spill seem to be able to reconcile the mythology of their past with their artistic pursuits of the future. It can’t be an easy task, but it’s awfully nice to be able to go along for the ride.


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