Keep It Like A Secret
Warner Brothers Records, 1999
REVIEW BY: George Agnos
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/29/1999
It is unfortunate that the alternative rock scene, which blossomed in the early 90's, did not live up to the hype that was made at the time. Too many of the bands that had monster hits could not live up to the standards they set on their followup recordings. Also, many of the newer bands just seem like tepid imitations of the older bands.
Help does seems to be on the way, though. Enter the Idaho band Built To Spill with their wonderful new CD, Keep It Like A Secret.What sets this band apart from many others is that they go back to the basics. Their approach and influences seem to be the same as the older alternative bands. I hear a lot of Neil Young and Bob Mould in their sound, but they take what those artists did a step further providing a more off-center, quirky feel.
You will immediately notice the Young-like intonations in singer Doug Martsch's voice when he sings "The plan keeps coming up again" on the first song called "The Plan". But you will also hear how the song gradually shifts into indie-rock territory helped along with Martsch's Mould like guitar licks. Built To Spill stays truer to Young's style with the folk-rocker "Carry The Zero", betrayed only at the very end when the guitars crank up to an alternative fury.
There are other influences on Keep It Like A Secret. "Center Of The Universe" recalls the more audacious sound of Jane's Addiction. The pop-oriented "Sidewalk" has a great hook with enough of a quirky charm to be more than a standard pop song. Their best chance for a hit is on the novelty tune "You Were Right" which make references to famous classic rock lines: "You were right when you said we are all just dust in the wind/You were right when you said we're all just bricks in the wall".
However, Keep It Like A Secret is not as poppy as I have made it seem. "Time Trap" starts off with a long instrumental before the quirky vocals and rhythm appear. "Temporarily Blind" is a strange song with unusual guitar licks that shifts gears a couple times keeping the listener off balance. The CD ends with "Broken Chairs", a long, moody piece with a jam that is mesmerizing.
This type of quirky alternative rock tends to be very hit and miss, and while I really liked it, I must admit that it is not for everyone. Keep It Like A Secret proves to me that the alternative rock scene is not as creatively dead as I thought. But if radio continues to ignore bands like Built To Spill, the scene will continue to be in a coma.