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Built To Spill: Keep It Like A Secret


Built To Spill

Album: Keep It Like A Secret
Label: Warner Bros.

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Doug Martsch's greatest gift is his ability to create an elastic, unpredictable rock sound that's always threatening to careen in five directions at once. An exceptionally skilled guitarist and witty lyricist, Martsch and his various bands (Built To Spill, The Halo Benders, Treepeople) have invariably offered more than what lies on the surface. Built To Spill, which began as a glorified solo side project for Martsch, has flowered into a steady full band, with bassist Brett Nelson and awesome former Spinanes drummer Scott Plouf now regularly in the fold. Perhaps as a result of the newfound consistency, the group's fourth full-length studio album, Keep It Like A Secret, tends to eschew the drawn-out jam-friendliness of its predecessor to find a tighter, more focused sound. Which isn't to say the album is ever predictable or obvious: Dense and intense, the group's sound is alternately explosive and quirky, offering tremendous hooks ("Center Of The Universe"), awesome rock power ("Sidewalk"), and hypnotically atmospheric pop ("Else"). For every muddled moment that doesn't work—the eight-minute closing track, "Broken Chairs," is kind of a mess—Martsch throws a curveball like "You Were Right," a hilarious track that generously quotes classic rock songs from "Dust In The Wind" to "Jack And Diane." With its layers of guitars and sharp lyrics, Keep It Like A Secret is a smart, challenging installment in a career that's been as varied as it is prolific.