Built to Spill

Live

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Although the sensibility did show up on most of their studio recordings, Built to Spill were long renowned for their ability to stretch out in concert, where the balance between two of their most dominant influences -- noisy, electric Neil Young and noisy, angular Pavement-esque pop -- tilted decidedly toward the former's extended jams. In fact, Live's defining performance is a 20-minute cover of Young's "Cortez the Killer," on which Doug Martsch's vocal and guitar work bear an amazingly accurate similarity to Young, almost to the point of flat-out imitation. Yet somehow, the performance doesn't feel derivative -- it seems more like Martsch is staking out long-coveted territory and one-upping his way into something very much his own, making the expanded length of the already epic song absolutely necessary. It's a powerful, majestic performance that makes the preceding songs seem like a perfect buildup, and it also has the effect of dwarfing the extremely good performances that follow it. The exception, of course, is another 20-minute jam that closes the album, this time the Built to Spill original "Broken Chairs," which essentially underlines the point made with "Cortez." As for the nonepic songs, there are five other well-chosen Built to Spill originals, plus terrific versions of the Halo Benders' "Virginia Reel Around the Fountain" (actually a Martsch side project) and Love as Laughter's "Singing Sores Make Perfect Swords." What's more, the sound quality is excellent, even crystalline (for a concert recording). It's as definitive a concert document of the band as you're likely to get, and it's close to being essential listening even for fans who aren't keen on live albums.

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