Built to Spill- Keep It Like a Secret
Originally released February 2, 1999, Keep It Like a Secret is Built to Spill’s fourth album. I knew of the band before this album, but this is the one that really ratcheted up their attention in my mind. Several online reviews have stated that is their most accessible album to date.
Once you hear that they are a band with indirect lyrics and astonishing guitar inter-workings, one may almost want to write them off as a Sonic Youth copy. A prime example would be their first single form this album, “Center of the Universe”. However, when you listen to their lyrics, there is a point to what they’re trying to get across. “Just keep watching your TV…waiting for someone to say something that’s right” is two lines from the chorus. Quite opposite form that advice, I think the point of those lines is that one should not do just that…go out and make your own decisions. If you see yourself as the center of the universe, perhaps you should see what is happening around you and try to figure out why.
Perhaps more indicative of their guitar noodling, the track “Carry the Zero” spawned an EP of the same name. During this era, they would frequently close out concerts performing this song, extending an already 6 minute song even further. The track uses a lot of math-centric lyrics, and if I’m anything besides a music nerd, it’d be a math nerd, so that helps bend the track to my liking. The lyrics are telling somebody off for not being a complete person and comparing that to something that is broken and put back together wrong. Both are compared to long division/multiplication and forgetting to carry the zero…
The track that has earned Built to Spill much of my undying loyalty (the other track would be “Car”) is the perfect bit of pop distillation that is “You Were Right”. I have posted a longer review of only this song, but it takes lines from well known songs and decries whether the proclamations within them were “wrong” or “right”. And this is what makes me love the song so.
You were right when you said all that glitters isn’t gold (Neil Young’s “Don’t be Denied”)
You were right when you said all we are is dust in the wind (Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind”)
You were right when you said we’re all just bricks in the wall (Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall, part 2”)
And when you said manic depression’s a frustrated mess (Jimi Hendrix’ “Manic Depression”)
You were right when you said you can’t always get what you want (Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”)
You were right when you said it’s a hard rain’s gonna fall (Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”)
You were right when you said were still running against the wind (Bob Seger’s “Against the Wind”)
Life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone (John Mellencamp’s “Jack & Diane”)
You were right when you said this is the end (The Doors’ “The End”)
You were wrong when you said everything’s gonna be alright (Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”)
Built to Spill have finished their run on Warner Brothers records, releasing their 8th studio album in 2015. Their next album will be released independently on their own label, but the past 20 years has built them up as a band with a national following of fans who know what to expect, so I’m confident the band is making the right decision.
And now, I leave you with a track turning 25 this year, a quarter of a century of being hooked on this band…well worth the adventure.