Built To Spill – Perfect From Now On
Released January 28th, 1997 on Warner Bros.
Doug Martsch attracted major label attention for his Boise, Idaho band Built To Spill on the basis of There’s Nothing Wrong With Love, the group’s second album. That album was full of light and whimsy, comprised of solid indie pop songs overflowing with nostalgia and good vibes. Upon signing to Warner Bros. he decided instead to concentrate on squalling, lengthy epics more in line with vintage “Cowgirl In The Sand”-era Neil Young. While this is not precisely recommended behaviour for a band that just inked a major label deal, Perfect From Now On is the best Built To Spill album by a country mile. The follow-up, Keep It Like A Secret, was as concise as Perfect From Now On was sprawling, and after that Martsch put out a series of solid enough albums that showcased moments of brilliance but could mainly be described as “workmanlike”.
Perfect From Now On, though, is a heady trip. Gifted with the same deft touch for screaming, grungy lead guitar that J. Mascis put to such good use ten years prior, Marsch and the band hover and strike like stoned professionals. The leadoff title track is a textbook exercise in how to craft a rock song that seems made to be heard in the moon’s gravity. “I Would Hurt A Fly” is Built To Spill at their moodiest, turning cliches on their heads and getting close to snapping at that noise you’re making. “Velvet Waltz” and “Kicked It In The Sun” both glide by on skates in the cloud, built on jams that flirt with singularity and then reform in more solid states. The closer, “Untrustable,” snaps that dreamy melodies that dominate the rest of the album into solid focus before switching to an almost carnivalesque instrumental jam that closes out the album in a weirdly Elephant Six fashion.
The album was actually recorded three times; what you hear is the final form of these songs after being jammed out again and again. The first time Martsch played everything except the drums but was unsatisfied with the results. The second time the full band played and while the producer was driving from Seattle to Boise to record some further takes the master tapes were destroyed by the car’s heater. Thus the album had to be recorded a third time, the end result being that the songs were as good as they were going to ever be. In 2008, between albums, the band took Perfect From Now On back out on tour, acknowledging the indisputable high point of their catalog.