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Keep it Like a Secret

music reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: Keep it Like a Secret

Artist: Built to Spill
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: February 1999

Review by LarryG
3 stars out of 4

Doug Martsch's Built to Spill have definitely become a band to watch. 1994's There's Nothing Wrong With Love was a real find, a low budget record filled with quirky gems. The songs like the fun Big Dipper and Twin Falls, Idaho, a poignant tribute to how Martsch's mom raised him on her own, were personal and well written. After getting signed by Warner Brothers, in 1997 Built to Spill made Perfect From Now On, a bigger sounding but less tuneful record. On Perfect From Now On, Martsch showed off growing guitar prowess and fascination with guitar noise on long, dense, sprawling songs. Keep It Like a Secret is an excellent marriage of the two earlier records. He still shows a love for guitars but showcases it in likeable, personal songs. From the start, Martsch makes it clear that Keep It Like a Secret is going to be accessible to a broader audience than Perfect From Now On. The opener, The Plan, shows its pop hook right away. The song has a break for guitar noise in the middle but doesn't get bogged down, finishing in 3 minutes instead of the 7 or 8 of most songs on Perfect From Now On. Only on the cd's last song, Broken Chairs, does the band indulge in a lengthy jam. Carry the Zero brings to mind Perfect From Now On's Kicked It in the Sun but with a lighter touch. Song after song is substantial but pleasantly poppy, mixing in interesting sounds but keeping the song moving. The band keeps on throwing out catchy riffs.  Martsch's voice is whiny but appealingly unpretentious. His songs are about a decent guy trying to do the right thing. On the goofily charming Center of the Universe, he apologizes for being able to communicate well to a friend. On Else, he laments how funny love is but, with resignation, recognizes the need to be with someone. As in his previous work, Martsch's love of music and joy in what he's doing is clear. His singing and playing have a real openness. On You Were Right, over layers of guitar and a great loose beat, Martsch tells a joke but also expresses his mixed world view, saying which rock classics had a correct message (Dust In the Wind, Another Brick In The Wall, You Can't Always Get What You Want, A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall) and which were wrong (any song that said Everything's Gonna Be Alright). Built to Spill's love of guitars brings to mind other alternative bands that love guitars but they've got more substance and consistency than most of Pavement and are more fun and less ironic than Sonic Youth. The thing that really distinguishes Built to Spill on Keep It Like a Secret from other similar is their love of a good pop song. The bottom line is that Keep It Like a Secret is great listening. It's well played, catchy and challenging rock.

Here's what others reviewers have to say:

".........Built To Spill songs are typically about the physics of colliding emotions, about dissension at home and in the head....Yet there is something very whole and intoxicating about the way Martsch sets unraveling relationships against fastidiously scripted riff fireworks..." Rolling Stone 2/18/99, p.57-58

"...most focused effort in its nine-year career....a luminously poetic expression of good old-fashioned crash-and-burn sonic beauty..." CMJ 2/1/99, p.3

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Forget all that other stuff. This is the best album of 1999.    --Duck Boy



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