Idaho rockers Built To Spill back in top form on new album, 'There Is No Enemy'

It’s not that Built To Spill was making bad albums. But since 1999’s Keep It Like a Secret,” the Idaho guitar-rockers didn’t seem overly inspired in the studio, turning out a handful of records that were good in the moment, if not particularly memorable.

The band’s live shows were another story: Built To Spill in concert was nearly always tuneful, rugged and compelling. With its seventh full-length album, Doug Martch’s band has recaptured that energy on a record. “There Is No Enemy” (Warner Bros.) brings together 11 burly songs laced with understated pop hooks that linger. (Listen to the complete album here.)

Opener “Aisle 13″ starts with squalls of guitar noise that coalesce into a crumbly, fist-pumping riff framing Martsch’s plaintive vocals. A couple songs later, on “Nowhere Lullaby,” he slows things down with a measured arpeggio and sings in wistful tones of riding out the bad days until the good ones come back around.

Jittery guitars lend a frantic edge to “Pat,” and Martsch starts off “Planting Seeds” with a balls-out solo that gives way to a muscular riff. He’s reflective on the wry “Hindsight” over chiming guitar, and a little down, but philosophical, on “Life’s a Dream,” which ends with bold horns punctuating the frothy guitar solo.

That’s the key here: the songwriting is back on par with the always-awesome guitar playing, and the result is Built To Spill’s most engaging album in a decade.

— Eric R. Danton

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