Reviewed By Laurent Shervington
What do Modest Mouse, Built to Spill and Pixies all have in common? Well apart from all releasing some goddamn solid rock albums in the 90s, they’ve all released a comeback album in the last year or so.
While the 6 year wait for new Modest Mouse was a rather disappointing and at times strange in the worst way, thankfully Built to Spill have done slightly better, but as a whole “Untethered Moon” is a mixed return.
For starters “Untethered Moon” feels like Built to Spill’s “reunion” album, with lyrical topics ranging from the unremitting nature of rock and roll to coming to the realisation of being unsighted and lost in the world. Despite these seemingly senile rockist themes, main songwriter Doug Marstch still holds up a pretty cohesive 46minutes with the only song that truly overstayed its welcome being the closer “When I’m Blind” which goes off into a jam/solo section to return back to the verse and chorus for what seems to be for no real purpose then to extend the jam.
“Untethered Moon” seems like a curious title in some respects, with BTS being the epitome of untethered in their previous work in terms of composition and song format and this album is no disappointment. Opener “All of Our Songs” starts out with a menacing minor chord progression and swells into a tremolo kissed spray.
The drums and piano pick up where the spray leaves off and a builds to an incredibly expressive and strong solo. Halfway through the track listing lies “Never Be the Same” which acts as the group’s most blatant pop adventure on this record. The notably laid back and almost ballad-like delivery of Marstch comes off to great and is as heart wrenchingly sad as it is blissfully sweet.
BTS are known to possess the ability to conjure some of the most emotive and compelling guitar tones in indie rock, anyone who has listened to Perfect From Now On or There is Nothing Wrong with Love can tell you. But the band seems to have taken a step back with this aspect of their sound on a few tracks on this album, for example on the previously released track “Living Zoo” the tones sound scratchy and slightly dry, preventing the track from reaching the achingly expressive highs it aims for.
Untethered Moon’s real strengths lie in its element of familiarity, the core elements of Built to Spill’s formula hasn’t changed : from Martsch’s soulful crooning to the seemingly endless solos and layers of swirling 6 strings. But Untethered Moon is at times less of a step towards world beating and more of a trudge towards carbon copy jam band territory.