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There's Nothing Wrong With Love

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Wistful: it seems an odd word to describe anything penned by Boise’s scruffiest guitar hero. But Doug Martsch’s band Built to Spill show a charmingly childlike side on 1994’s There’s Nothing Wrong with Love, their last independent-label release. With simple, straightforward lyrics that trace a Brontosaurus constellation in the sky (“Big Dipper”); recall gym class parachutes and games of 7-Up (“Twin Falls”); and explore the inner life of a baby in the womb (“Cleo”), Martsch seems to be looking not forward, but back. The effect may be nostalgic, but it’s anything but sweet. As in childhood, emotions run raw and close to the surface: “Christmas, Twin Falls Idaho’s/ Her oldest memory/ She was only two/ It’s the first time she felt blue.” Musically, Love is less noise-driven than what was to come, with shorter songs and melodies hooky enough to hum in the shower. But the mature band’s splintered song structures and quirky chord progressions are already evident; tunes start and stop suddenly, time signatures change without warning, and string arrangements shimmer in unlikely places. Still, it might be easy enough to write this off as Pavement-esque indie pop were it not for Martsch’s effects-laden guitar. By turns soaring and spacious, jagged and gnarled, it paints soundscapes as lovely—and as bleak—as the Idaho sky.


Formed: 1992 in Boise, ID

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Built to Spill were one of the most popular indie rock acts of the '90s, finding the middle ground between postmodern, Pavement-style pop and the loose, spacious jamming of Neil Young. From the outset, the band was a vehicle for singer/songwriter/guitarist Doug Martsch, who revived the concept of the indie guitar hero just as Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis -- another important influence -- was beginning to fade from the limelight. On record, Martsch the arranger crafted intricate, artfully knotted tangles...
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