A lot of my friends think Keep It Like a Secret is Built to Spill's best record. I happen to think it's Perfect From Now On, but we're sort of splitting hairs. The band had a great run in the '90s, releasing a trio of fantastic records that casts a long shadow and still towers over a lot of what passes for good indie rock these days.
As for lyrics, I never found much to latch on to, but that never mattered. The melodies were gorgeous, and Built to Spill was all about guitars. Like J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., an obvious influence, Doug Martsch makes the instrument do extraordinary things. He can do sweetly melodic and compact, or 10-minute solos and long freak-out jams. I have a problem with the latter, however. The one time I saw them, in 1999, I walked out in the middle of an interminable Crazy Horse-style version of "Broken Chairs."
Built to Spill has put out a couple of records in this decade, but I never owned them. And I couldn't tell you a song on either one. Fandom is a mysterious thing. We're all getting older; some bands we stick with, and others we don't. Built to Spill wasn't a long-termer for me, but the group's best stuff reminds me of a sweet time when it took more than a MySpace account and a song on The O.C. to get popular -- it took actual songs.