Built to Spill

I like guitar bands. They are what I understand; they are what I know. So I was fairly impressed with Built to Spill’s latest CD on Warner Brothers. The band’s seventh release is packed with inspired guitar riffs, inviting melodies and intriguingly ambiguous lyrics. Sounding something like an ingenious cross between Neil Young and George Harrison, the opening track, “Strange,” basically lists things the narrator finds peculiar against an attractive, moderate-paced, ascending chord progression, with a distortion-laced slide solo near the end. Guitarist/songwriter/singer Doug Martsch’s voice is reminiscent of late-'60s Neil Young, especially the Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere period. On “The Host,” Martsch seems to grapple with mortality and memory, intoning “They’ll never die/So why should I?” Yet by the song’s conclusion, he realizes “Nobody gets away.” Personally, I find this sort of ambiguity attractive. Given the particularly cut-and-dried state of lyricism in most current popular music, even a vague sense of depth or meaning is welcome. If I have one complaint about the music here, however, it’s that most of the songs are too similarly paced. Still, with playing, singing and lyrics like these, that’s not too nagging a concern.