It’s too perfect that Built to Spill would title a track “RandyDescribed Eternity.” Their scrawling eight-minute plus guitar epics soar past an ode to the instrumental, and ascend into the heavens one power chord at a time. With every solo, they come into closer harmony with the cosmos and report back to us their findings. A hypnosis frequently occurs when dialing into BTS’ frequency, and Perfect from Now On swings the pendulum back and forth better than any record in their catalog.
When the term “indie rock” had cache the Boise-raised Built to Spill were at the forefront of the nascent genre along with bands like Pavement. But Malkmus and company deliberately constructed dense lyrical mazes to separate the listener from the band. Martsch (right spelling) and the rest of Built to Spill were more forthcoming, crafting lines like the pointed, but articulate “you can’t trust anyone, because you’re untrustable.” To boil the comparison down, Malkmus never hesitated to get drunk off words, while Martsch paced himself.
Musically, Pavement traded in jagged melodies that would rather take a sharp left turn than move dead-ahead. A BTS song, especially the eight found on this album is all-about gaining momentum, each riff another piece of coal in the furnace, until the movement is unsustainable and the train goes careening off the tracks. Every inch of a track like “Out of Site” is carefully choreographed to the point where you can often hear the solos coming from a mile away, like the roar of that aforementioned train off in the distance. When the instrumental first half of “Stop the Show” is climbing towards chaos, the band is preparing for its revival. Out of chaos comes order. In effect, the music BTS captures is predictable in a comforting way, never kicking us off until the ride is over.
As egalitarian as the band’s music and Martsch’s lyrics appear on first take, there’s a hidden sagaciousness to everything, masked by piercing guitar solos and raucous riffs. “Velvet Waltz” is exemplar of this wisdom, Martsch delivering the lines “you better not be angry, you better not be sad, you better just enjoy the luxury of sympathy, if that’s a luxury you have,” with great aplomb. There are times when finding a sympathetic soul becomes a Herculean labor, insuring self-doubt and crippling our faith in mankind. Martsch even announces the song with authorial intent, “I’ve got some words for you, they don’t offer anything.” For all their approachability, the band can still put distance between listener and music when the moment calls for it.
Few moments on the record push the listener away quite like the morose “I Would Hurt A Fly.” A creeping bassline from Brett Nelson and Martsch’s tremulous guitar figure ring every last drop of joy from his voice, as he deflatedly sings, “I can’t get that sound you make, out of my head, I can’t figure out what’s making it.” For a band so obsessed with the triumphal quality of sound, sound here becomes the downfall, the one ghost to emerge from times thought forgotten. The spectral element of the song is aided by the bowed cello, which carries the nightmare further into the realm of reality. Martsch does his best to thrash against this impending doom, but to avail; the sound has become a permanent fixture.
“Untrustable/Part 2 (About Someone Else)” is the ideal curtain-call, the longest track on the LP (besting “Velvet Waltz by 21 seconds), and the band doesn’t waste one tick of the clock. Here again Martsch is searching for something, as evidenced by the chorus “And I’d love to see, but it’s something you just feel, and I’d like to feel but it just isn’t real.” Martsch is desperate to connect, but is only capable of going through the motions, if “God is whoever you’re performing for,” then the world outside of Martsch takes on that lofty title. The song settles into a late-game jam, with Scott Plouf battering his drum set and Martsch strumming into the infinite. Seconds before the album ends, the sound stops and there’s nothing left but a profound silence. What we’ve left along the way is often more important than the search itself, and Perfect from Now On proves that every step of the way.
"I Would Hurt A Fly"