Monday, September 17, 2012

Broken Chairs

I was late to the Built to Spill party, as I've been late to pretty much every party since about 1990. But the first time I played Keep It Like a Secret, having little idea what it or they would sound like, we clicked instantly. They're one of those bands that I think I would have bonded with down to the roots of my soul (do souls have roots?) had I first heard them when I was a teenager.

But "The Plan" grabbed me from the first, and then "Center of the Universe" absolutely sealed the deal. The rest of the album veers from the merely wonderful to the absolutely fantastic. But it's the final song, "Broken Chairs," to which I return again and again. The opening is cool enough—a couple Hendrix-like licks followed by a sort of blues rock jam—but gives little hint of the maelstrom to come.

It's nearly a minute before the real song begins, although there's no way to know that the intro is just that, merely a cold opening. But when it moves into the minor and songwriter Doug Martsch starts singing it crosses into an entirely new place. A verse, some guitar and then, oddly, whistling.

And that's it. No chorus, no bridge, no breakdown, no turnaround. The whole thing just repeats, essentially treading this same ground musically again. Lyrically, it's...I don't know even know, as mere snippets of words appear out of the murk, evocative phrases such as "my head's a dictionary of long spring days and the speech of crows who themselves are mirrors of apprehensions" or, the only really clear phrase, repeated several times, "well, all right."

But that's not the point—or maybe "well, all right" is the point. The point is howling guitars howling over a circular chord structure played by howling guitars which speak more eloquently than any but the very finest lyrics are likely to be able to. And, well, that's very all right indeed.

In the fallen sun...well, all right. 

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