Built To Spill - Ancient Melodies Of The Future
When I first heard Perfect from now On I found it a rambling and rather incoherent work which didn't seem to justify the effort which I was likely to have to expend to get into it. Then I heard You in Reverse and was stunned. Stunned by the guitar work, the lyrics and the way that this could produce hooks which just stuck in my mind long after I had ceased listening to the music. The success of that album ultimately convinced me to buy Ancient Melodies of the Future, Built to Spill's sixth album and the one immediately proceeding You in Reverse.
I am not really sure what I was expecting. I put aside my distaste for the rather smart-arse title which seemed to me to be more something I would expect from headbangers trying to convince people they were clever because they claimed to know what quantum physics is. I also tried to put aside my expectations that this would match You in Reverse knowing that such feelings often lead to disappointment. However, in neither respect was I entirely successful. Particularly difficult was to put aside expectations - this indeed was a disappointment compared to You in Reverse.
Unlike its successor, Ancient Melodies of the Future rarely ventures away from simple guitar-based pop. There is nothing inherently wrong in this, but simple melodies and chord progressions in a short, easily digestible format, comes across as Built to Spill-lite. The brevity of the songs leaves little room for Doug Martsch to show off his skill on the guitar, or for the songs themselves to grow. The result is a release which screams commercialism and generally lacks the depth and intensity of its successor release.
Around half the tracks are ballads of the down-tempo variety and the way these are distributed throughout the album does tend to break up the continuity. And by ending the album with the almost-folk ballad "The Weather", Built to Spill made a wholly predictable statement which hardly does them justice. At times these songs tend to drag the album down and add more fuel to the fire of speculation that this was an album aimed at the mainstream. Whether that is the case, it was ultimately not a success.
Yet, I have to say, it is not all bad news. Successive plays causes the album to grow on you somewhat. But although after a while, the album becomes pleasant enough to listen to, there is no stand out track to hook you and lure you into the rest of the album. There is no stand-still-mouth-open moment which defines the album (so different from You in Reverse which was full of them) and, on casual listening, nothing which really marks out one track as being much better than the rest.
And maybe that was the intention of the title after all. Maybe Martsch knew he had You in Reverse up his sleeve somewhere and that this album presages the hiatus between the two works, rendering Ancient Melodies of the Future as the album which had to be made to signal an end to a phase of Built to Spill's development. Who knows? But if I was coming afresh to Built to Spill, I wouldn't start here.
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on 2011-04-14 CharlesMartel Said:
I recently listened to this again and found it improved somewhat, but still very patchy and at times disappointing. I have recently got more familiar with "Perfect from now On."