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16 Years Ago: Built to Spill’s ‘Perfect From Now On’ Album Released

Built to Spill
Warner Bros. Records

After two albums on super-small indie labels, Built to Spill took advantage of their growing buzz by signing with a major record company in 1995. The move not only gave the Idaho trio’s third album, ‘Perfect From Now On,’ a desperately needed promotional push, it also upped the amount of time and cash spent on the recording. The result was the band’s first great album, an eight-song noise mountain that owed as much to Neil Young’s epic guitar showdowns as it did to indie-rock’s DIY aesthetic.

Frontman Doug Martsch used the major-label leap to play around with longer songs (two of them stretch out past eight minutes, another four run six and seven minutes) and head-in-the-bong lyrics (see opening cut ‘Randy Described Eternity’). And despite their occasionally unwieldy structures, the tracks are constructed as meticulously as a piece of modern architecture.

Martsch originally envisioned ‘Perfect From Now On’ – which celebrates its 16th anniversary today — as a solo piece, in which he played almost all of the instruments himself. But as the band took shape, and Martsch’s concept of the record gained more weight, the LP became a grander statement. So grand, in fact, that cello and Mellotron dominate the songs.

The best tracks – “I Would Hurt a Fly,” “Velvet Waltz,” “Kicked It in the Sun” – body-slam raging guitar solos on top of elegant, cushiony landings with little regard for conventional starting and stopping points. As with Neil Young, Martsch’s solos are finished only after he’s exhausted every note, or until the tape runs out, whichever comes first. ‘Perfect From Now On’ set up the band for 1999’s ‘Keep It Like a Secret,’ an even better album with more pop smarts. Neither record sold much. And neither received much airplay beyond the most adventurous left-of-the-dial stations. But they bravely blurred the line between classic rock and indie rock at a time when that distinction still seemed to matter.

Listen to Built to Spill’s ‘Kicked It in the Sun’

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