Despite the inflated reputation of 1999’s Keep It Like a Secret, it’s obvious the band have never made the perfect Built to Spill record. If anything, their Pavement-meets-Phish take on jammy indie rock is universally agreed to be best realized live and has been remarkably consistent—though never transcendent—through their first six studio records.
The seventh, There Is No Enemy, finds the veteran Idaho band fronted by unlikely guitar god Doug Martsch again paring gummy riffs with wispy vocals. Unlike, say, Ancient Melodies of the Future’s brilliant closer, “The Weather,” there’s no foray into folk here, but the slow burn of “Nowhere Lullaby” and the Frampton-esque opening to the following track, the epic “Good Ol’ Boredom,” gives all the variety you need—and all the variety you’d get from a show by this lean, mean touring act (who go roadie-less), without the option of oddly tuned or acoustic instruments. The Westerberg pulse of “Pat” and the creepy cornfield vibe of “Oh Yeah” flesh things out, switching up the terrain enough to keep it interesting for 55 minutes.
Maybe that’s why Enemy feels a little like the mid-to-late-period live album the band should have released by now, and why it’s probably the most complete Built to Spill record to date. Is There Is No Enemy Martsch’s masterpiece? Not necessarily, but it’s closer than at least five of the six other albums.
Check out this week's featured ad for Entertainment