The genius of… Perfect from now on by Built to Spill |

Rock nerds tend to like what they know, and they really like telling people what they know. Perfect from now on, however, is thorny when placed in this kind of context. It’s a guitar-bass-drums record of obvious mid-’90s vintage, and yet its left-hand bends and guitar trusses suggest that, maybe, it’d be cool if we unlearned some of that rock stuff. to which we cling. Here, Doug Martsch and Built to Spill seem to ask us, for example, what if classically pleasant, unassuming songs could go where they wanted and do great imaginative things?

Built to Spill only really looked like this for a short period of time – the excellent records either side of Perfect from now on got off to shorter, more melodic songs – but that only adds to the power of the LP. Martsch hasn’t spent the past 25 years fumbling for answers like someone who figured out the meaning of life, wrote it down, then lost the piece of paper.

The odds in

Hailing from Boise, Idaho, Built to Spill formed in 1992, with Martsch as their pivotal and only permanent member. Their first two records – Ultimate Alternate Waves (1993) and There’s nothing wrong with love (1994) – were very promising and melodic college rockers. They contained the raw materials that served as the basis for Perfect from now onif not its sense of meandering reach.

Since it was the mid-90s, the band signed with a major for album three. They’re unlikely to stay with Warner Bros for the next decade or so, despite releasing a debut record that seemed to delight in doing things that were verboten when the suits were in town: six of its eight songs were over six minutes long, the hooks were reed and sometimes buried. There was no hit within a thousand miles of Perfect from now on. There was rather a kind of patient alchemy from Martsch, whose increasingly complex writing had not lost sight of the fundamentals.

He also had plenty of time to get lost somewhere along the way, so there’s definitely discipline and solid plans at work here. Perfect from now on was essentially recorded three times: the first sessions were swept away by Martsch, the tapes of the second were damaged in producer Phil Ek’s truck. Third time around, with a shaky stack of hours in the bank rehearsal room, Martsch, bassist Brett Nelson and drummer Scott Plouf pulled it off.

keep it simple, stupid

Martsch’s approach to gear seems to fit Built to Spill’s overall take on music, with every tangle of noise, ringing solo, or high-pitched riff rendered in as few moves as possible. He’s got a guitar—a 1987 Fender Strat Plus—and usually runs it through a Bassman with delay, slapback, and a bit of vibrato in play.” At one point I had the pickup switch and button removed. of tone, so all it has is volume control,” he said. Premier Guitar in 2015.

“I removed the tone knob because I had always turned it all the way in and never touched it – I dialed in the tone on my amp instead. As for the selector, I’m pretty much Almost sure that the middle position is the only setting I can use now.The middle settings were completely useless for me.

Doug Martsch of Built To Spill
Doug Martsch of Built To Spill. Image: Stephen Lovekin/WireImage

Space travel

there is something cosmic Perfect from now ona kind of home space that can’t just be dismissed as high contact from the front lines of Randy described eternity (thousands of years, metallic spheres, Jupiter and Earth, etc.). Martsch often seems to explore space, even if it is the most earthly genre to be found between the notes.

Take the chorus of I would hurt a fly, where his guitar and yelping hook share space with Plouf’s cello, shoegazey scuzz washes and spiral drums. The separation of each element, with Martsch and second guitarist Brett Netson seemingly giving each other the baton as the smoothest, shaggiest baton team in history, keeps it from becoming a sonic knot, perfectly encapsulating the dynamic which does Perfect from now on a guitar record in which to get lost rather than overwhelmed.

Doug Martsch of Built To Spill
Doug Martsch of Built To Spill. Image: Gary Wolstenholme/Redferns

Secret plans

Built to Spill continued, making great records that all caught on with the faithful in different ways. In 1999 Keep it like a secret they’ve got a masterpiece that could last heavy rounds with its predecessor, certainly surpassing it in terms of portraying Martsch’s more concise side, but for sheer quirkiness and sass it’s hard to look past Perfect from now on.

With work on Keep it like a secret starting almost immediately after the release of Perfect from now on we can zoom out and see a songwriter eager to investigate his strengths and weaknesses and, for one thrilling moment, realizing that everything he touched seemed to work in an endearing, understated way. It’s like Doug Martsch who built a treehouse for the summer that lasted a thousand years.

info box

Built to overflow, Perfect from now on (Warner Bros., 1997)


  • Doug Martsch – vocals, guitar
  • Brett Nelson – bass
  • Scott Plouf – drums, percussion
  • Phil Ek – producer, engineer

Outstanding Guitar Moment

I would hurt a fly

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