London W1 Improv Theatre

For a while back there we thought we'd lost you, [B]Doug[/B]....

For a while back there we thought we’d lost you, Doug. Didn’t quite work out with the last record, 1997’s ‘Perfect From Now On’, did it?

Jaded, tired, sick to death with the ‘business’ of it all, Doug Martsch always knew Boise, Idaho’s Built To Spill were more than mere product. “This is my art, my life,” Martsch probably mused, “not a commodity.” And so he hid himself away, out of the spotlight, out of the glare.

Annoyingly, art has a cruel way of imitating life, and so his grand opus, too, remained virtually unheard. Now, though, we have to reacquaint ourselves with the Spill, arguably, for what it’s worth, the most unnecessarily complex US band of the last six years. No apparent personalities, no agenda and, this time, no cellist. Just a brazenly imaginative, often stunningly articulate take on the hoary beast that is indie rock, into which Martsch pours his love of Neil Young, The Beatles and, to state the obvious, a renewed faith in the power of melody. More than we’d ask for normally, but with Martsch – the only constant in his band’s ever-changing line-up – this could just be enough.

And it is, easily. ‘Keep It Like A Secret’, for most people the obvious successor to 1994’s brooding ‘There’s Nothing Wrong With Love’, is the album you always want Sebadoh to make: unrestrained, kinda sensitive, speckled with paranoia and insecurities and, best of all, in love with the very idea of making music for the sheer thrill of it.

The progression, it seems, the reason for songs as elegant as ‘Else’, exists in the trio’s new-found fondness for jamming and its marriage to Martsch‘s oft-overlooked pop disciplines. Some of it (‘Center Of The Universe’, ‘Sidewalk’) even sounds like Weezer, but really, that’s OK.

Of course, Martsch wouldn’t be an American singer-songwriter of choice without the standard demons to exorcise. Frequently, we learn, he is wrong, pathetic, insignificant – “life goes on long after the thrill of living has gone”, the 28-year-old sings on the sweet shrill of ‘You Were Right’ – and truly, the last few years for Doug can’t have been fun. Still. Brave, mad, dumb. It all helps.

They’ll make a legend of him yet.