by: Sean Boy
Built to Spill’s 1994 album, “There’s Nothing Wrong With Love” is as close to pop perfection any band has come since The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds.” And when you’re gifted and genius enough to get that close to perfection as Doug Martsch is, when you stray slightly from the ideal, you’re still light years ahead of anyone else. And just as the two previous Warner Brother releases fall short of masterpiece status, don’t expect “Ancient Melodies of the Future” to cut the cake either. In the song “Happiness” Martsch seems to expect these critical jabs, “you don’t have to be so cruel because all I’m doing is a little less than what I can,” he sings.
Where “Ancient Melodies of the Future” doesn’t fall short is in Doug Martsch’s amazing guitar artistry that continues to soar and then slow to a whisper and hit every nuance in between. The sounds Martsch is able to get from his guitar, mixed with his distinct boyish vocals evoke emotions that so-called “Emo” bands can only dream of doing with their high school poetry lyrics. This Boise trio make songs like the Trinity: there are songs big enough to fill the universe (“Trimmed and Burning”) and songs small enough to fit in your heart (“Alarmed”). Then near the end of the album, the song “You Are” is big and small at once. Meek verses followed by crashing walls of guitar.
Don’t mistake this review as a dis on the record. “Ancient Melodies of the Future” is a work of art made by a cast of characters that is capable of perfection, but perhaps perfection is not what Built to Spill is after this time around. It’s very likely Doug Martsch wants only to record the next group of songs that he can’t get out of his head. Lucky for us those songs are just “a little less” than perfection.