Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Built to Spill: Live [Warner Bros., 2000]
The holy purpose of Doug Martsch's songwriting is the riffs it feeds his guitar. Lyrics that poke into the tribulations and satisfactions of indie life may be worth excavating, may even convince us that for Martsch small-town life is an end in itself. In fact, however, he treasures low-overhead slackerdom for affording the physical time and spiritual space where musical epiphanies can flourish--for providing the raw material of its own transcendence. As much as Martsch's turbulent flow owes J Mascis, Neil Young is definitely the godfather--so that when Martsch launches a 20-minute "Cortez the Killer" you may forget what record you've got on until you realize how much louder Martsch's cannonading repetitions are. There's no folk rock in him--and, for that pomo touch, plenty of computer. A-