Although their eighth studio LP isn’t due out until 2013, Built to Spill hit the road this week for a block of dates that takes them into the fall. Technically, they’ll still be supporting their 2009 effort, There Is No Enemy, but with these Boise rockers, we’re bound to hear some deep cuts. And for the band’s die-hard fans – and really, Built to Spill is the kind of band that only seems to have die-hard fans–that’s an exciting prospect.
Lately, the band’s more recent gigs have shown a healthy mix of new and old, but one can only hope Doug Martsch & Co. make room for rare treasures, especially stuff off 1997’s Perfect from Now On and 1999’s Keep It Like a Secret. In anticipation, we offer a few set list suggestions–some obscurities, overlooked gems, and even an Eno cover we discovered via YouTube that dates back to 2007.
Ten wishes, ten cuts, ten prospectives, etc.
10. “Velvet Waltz”
The band would do well to revisit Perfect from Now On, their third album and major label debut. In all likelihood, they’ll dust off “Randy Described Eternity”, which is a great track, but “Velvet Waltz” would offer quite a curve ball. The verse “And you better not be angry/ And you better not be sad/ You better just enjoy the luxury of sympathy/ If that’s a luxury you have” is just so damn heartbreaking and unforgettable.
Perfect from Now On may be the group’s strongest effort, but Keep It Like a Secret is a close second. It’s more polished, but that’s okay. Martsch’s voice is stronger and clearer than ever, and the pop-ier new direction doesn’t fail. “Carry the Zero” probably has the best chance of being played live, but “Sidewalk” would be a sounder choice.
Even early on, Martsch had the ability to write some truly great love songs, as exemplified on the band’s 1994 album, There’s Nothing Wrong With Love, and ”Reasons” remains one of the best. It’s poignant and sweet and assuredly made its way onto thousands of high school mixtapes over the years. Why not a setlist?
7. “Untrustable/Pt. 2 (About Someone Else)”
Another cut from Perfect from Now On, “Untrustable/Pt. 2 (About Someone Else)” is the album’s epic closer. An incredibly complex song, “Untrustable” is densely layered and deeply textured, complete with one of Martsch’s most memorable lines: “God is whoever you’re performing for.” At 8:54, it’s long, but totally within Martsch and Co.’s scope.
6. “Conventional Wisdom”
You in Reverse is a flawed album, but “Conventional Wisdom” is a showstopper–mostly because it hearkens back to 1999’s Keep It Like a Secret. It’s catchy as hell, and Martsch’s vocal melody is killer, though he stops singing after a couple minutes to make room for a super long guitar jam.
5. ”Trimmed and Burning”
Power ballad “Trimmed and Burning” from the group’s sixth studio album, 2001’s Ancient Melodies of the Future, doesn’t get much play onstage, but it’s much deserved. It’s chocked with some of the band’s heaviest riffs to date, and it gets 10 points for its reference to The Smiths.
4. “Scarin'” (Halo Benders cover)
The Halo Benders is Martsch’s side project with Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening, and “Scarin'” is from their 1994 debut, God Don’t Make No Junk. The cover ended up as the B-side on the “Distopian Dream Girl” 7″, and you can also find it on the Up Records compilation CD, Stacked Up. It’s simple, but stunning, and unusual for Built to Spill because it lacks their signature epic guitars.
Full disclosure: “Car” is the song that got me officially hooked on Built to Spill. Yes, “Car” is a universal favorite, and they’re probably bored of playing it live, but it’s never boring for the fans. Always an upbeat and catchy addition to any playlist, it would be a serious disappointment to skip over “Car”.
2. “Third Uncle” (Brian Eno cover)
Built to Spill covering Brian Eno is undeniably awesome. Most attempts at covering Eno end in disaster–Jon Brion is the only musician I can think of who does Eno justice–but Built to Spill nailed the guitar tone here. Maybe we’ll get lucky and hear the gem on this tour? Not likely, but we’ll see.
1. “Three Years Ago Today”
“Nowhere Nothin’ Fuckup” and “Get a Life” seem to be the two songs Built to Spill are willing to revisit from their 1993 debut, Ultimate Alternative Wavers, but it’d be a shame for them to bury “Three Years Ago Today”. It’s the most accessible song on the record, but more importantly, it established the band’s trademark sound that continues to serve them well almost 20 years later.