Built to Spill—KEEP IT LIKE A SECRET (1999)

220px-keep_it_like_a_secretReview by Alfredo Duarte

Assigned by Jonathan Hopkins

Prior to writing this review, i only knew Built to Spill by name. Never actually heard anything by them, but i read some people mentioning BTS as an influential and important band for the indie pop groups that came later. The cover art looked like something good was gonna come out and it was indeed, there’s always more room for 90’s power pop in my heart (oh excuse the cornyness)! I love Jellyfish, Posies, etc.

Problem: this album came out in 1999, and in 1999 for some reason all rock dudes were playing midtempo grooves or jump music. So this is midtempo power pop! See, when it comes to garage pop or power pop, i think that when you have a nice melody is more exciting if you play it fast, at least kind of fast. I remember at a show i saw a patch with The Flash playing drums with someone pointing a gun at his head and saying “PLAY FAST OR DIE!”. How cool is that? Best drummer ever!

Where was I? Oh yeah, so the tunes that sound more exciting to me are the faster ones, like “Sidewalk” wich kicks ass, or the ones who display some intense emotion despite being slow, like “You were right”, my favorite track here, gotta love those clichéd phrases and the whiny chorus. The clichés make it sound like everything is tongue in cheek but the overall mood is so depressing i guess no, is not a joke, he’s just dressing it as a joke but he kind of, wants to die and shit.

First song is also nice, the singles for some reason did not impress me much. “Center of the Universe” has an annoying guitar riff, stop doing that guitar players! “Carry The Zero” is cool but way too fucking long with not much happening in between. OK, there’s some changes but waaaayyyyy subtle for my patience. How about playing it faster? FASTER!

Back to the first song “The Plan”, sweet album opener and it has a ‘Sonic Youth’ dissonant noise rock section wich makes you hope the whole album has moments like this, but sadly nope, that’s the only one.

Overall a pretty solid CD, I am definitely going back to this or other item inside the discography of The Built To Spills for some more midtempo power pop enjoyment.

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Massacre–12 NUEVAS PATALOGíAS (2003)

massacre-12_nuevas_patologias-frontalReview by Adrian Evans-Burke

Assigned by Alfredo Duarte

I’m admittedly far too lazy to lean heavily upon Google Translate to understand each of the twelve new pathologies purportedly outlined in this album by Argentinian rock band Massacre. While my grasp of Spanish may be pitiful, I thankfully have enough appreciation for and experience with 80s-90s alternative rock to find joys and layers of influences to unpack in each of these fuzzed-out, colorful tracks. Given the year this was released (2003), Massacre had decades of alt rock, grunge, and post-rock to sort through, and clearly they’ve done their homework. This album is full of surprises, interesting tones and sounds, and seems to represent a band fully confident of their ability to absorb influences from Sunny Day Real Estate, Failure, Stone Roses, Smashing Pumpkins, and Jane’s Addition into something wholly their own.

From the sequencer swells and cheap-casio keyboard claps of the album opener ‘Adios caballo español’, you think you’re in store for some odd late-90s EDM rock. Then drums and fuzzed-out guitars take over and you’re suddenly living in some shoegaze-Jane’s Addiction hybrid; especially on the vocals which, for reasons unknown, call to mind a Perry Farrell with a vocal range of more than four notes. The cyclonic guitars have shades of Dave Navarro, and then suddenly I’m hearing echoes of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Warped’ from their lone Navarro album. This song really sets the stage for the rest of the album: energic, driving, and full of interesting call-backs to classic sounds without being derivative.

‘La nueva amenaza’ is for fans of Sunny Day Real Estate while ‘Ambas estatuas’ is filled with swirling, thick guitars that call to mind a sunnier version of Catherine Wheel. ‘Querida Eugenia’ is reminiscent of early Oasis without the nasal, pugnaciousness of Liam Gallagher. Massacre does run the risk of sounding redundant here, with track after track being drenched in driving, fuzz-faced, phased-out guitars while the vocalist repeatedly relies upon the same “telephone/megaphone” effect on his vocals. This impression is probably enhanced by my poor Spanish, leaving out a large chunk of the album’s performance. That said, there are some welcome breaks in the middle that add diversity, such as ‘Bienvenido al mundo de los confluctuaditos’, an instrumental track with a second-half that recalls the foreboding outro of The Beatles classic ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’; or ‘Ideal para el invierno’, a track that features spoken word over an interesting mish-mash of musical influences, coming off as Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Love’ with dark 80s AOR synth embellishments. All of these observations are intended to be compliments, it’s just without understanding the cultural or lyrical context, these various (assumed) influences are my only anchor for analysing this album.

In the end it is an enthusiastic thumbs up for me. I have no idea what they’re singing, but the music speaks my language. If you’re a fan of any of the artists name-checked above, you probably won’t regret giving this album a shot. As a guitarist, I particularly love all the tones and riffs crammed into each song. Just don’t ask me what they’re singing.