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Built to Spill | Perfect From Now On | 10th Anniversary Vinyl Album Review

Built to Spill Perfect From Now On Vinyl

If I were to pick the least known yet most impactful album that influenced me in the late 90s, hands down my vote would go to Built to Spill and their third LP, Perfect From Now On. It led me down the obsessive path of seeking out up-and-coming, independent artists and spurned by desire to find, discover, and share the music I love.

Released in 1997, Perfect From Now On has become a classic indie rock album from the 1990s that showcases the band’s skills as musicians and songwriters, expanding well beyond what they created with Ultimate Alternative Waivers from 1993 and There’s Nothing Wrong With Love from 1994. 

Here’s my YouTube video covering the album:

The album features complex, intricate guitar work, introspective lyrics, and carefully crafted songs that really highlight lead signer Doug Martsch’s songwriting capabilities. It’s easy to cast the band aside as “just another silly indie rock band” due to its quirkiness, but you’ll find their library packed with a surprising amount of emotional prowess.

It’s easy to see why Perfect From Now On is among the top spun albums in my collection and why it made my 2022 Year in Vinyl list!

Randy Described Eternity

“Randy Described Eternity” opens LP and is kind of a defining moment for the band. Not only does it set the tone for Perfect From Now On with swirling guitars, clever lyrics, and intricate musicianship… it showcases Martsch’s musical virtuosity and his ability to craft a complex, multi-faceted, layered song. In fact, to this day it remains one of the my all-time favorite Built to Spill tracks.

In many ways “Randy Described Eternity” about how infinitely small we are, and how the little inter-relational irks we have about those around us… Well, they shouldn’t really matter in the grand scope of things. Right?  

“I Would Hurt a Fly” is another key track. Once again, it has a catchy melody and a memorable chorus. “Stop the Show” pushes the album forward with a driving beat and upbeat energy. 

Kicked it in the Sun

Another favorite is “Kicked it in the Sun,” which appears to be about searching for a sense of purpose and meaning in life. Martsch seems to be questioning his own existence and choices he’s made in the past — a theme that pops up again and again on Perfect From Now On

The phrase “Kicked it in the Sun” is often used as a metaphor for letting go of something and leaving it behind, suggesting a desire for change or a new start. It’s also slang for getting kicked in the balls. The song features catchy guitar riffs and a melody that builds gradually, creating a sense of tension and release that mirrors the emotional journey Martsch takes you on in the lyrics. 

The album also features several instrumental-ish tracks, including “Untrustable/Part 2 (About Someone Else),” which showcases the band’s musical abilities. True, it’s not fully instrumental, but the soundscapes include long drawn-out instrumentation without Martsch’s vocals. 

Throughout Perfect From Now On, Martsch’s unique vocal style doesn’t quite emphasize the emotional depth of the songs, but it’s there and on full display in the lyrics. You just have to listen. Whether he’s singing about love, loss, or the meaning of existence, Martsch’s lyrics are always insightful and thought-provoking. And it’s what makes Built to Spill, and Perfect From Now On, fucking brilliant.

A Critically Acclaimed LP

The LP received widespread critical acclaim and is considered by many—myself included—to be a classic when it comes to 1990s indie rock. Critics have praised it for its inventive and imaginative songwriting, blending elements of alt rock, psych rock, and even hints of punk and shoegaze into a unique and distinctive sound. 

In a review for AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote, “Perfect From Now On is the most realized and powerful Built to Spill album, a work of ambition and imagination that’s both classic and innovative.” Pitchfork gave it a 9.0 rating, with reviewer Mark Richardson stating, “Perfect From Now On is a triumph of inventive and imaginative rock music, a record that manages to be both expansive and introspective, rich and complex in its arrangements.”

These quotes illustrate why, now more than a quarter century later Perfect From Now On remains, in my opinion, the pinnacle of Build To Spill’s now extensive discography. Perfect From Now On has become a timeless classic for me, and one I revisit quite often—so much so that it’s in the top dozen records for most spins in my collection. And yes, that’s something I track.

10th Anniversary Vinyl Reissue

My copy is the 2007 reissue, which was the 10th Anniversary Pressing. It includes a previously unreleased — in 2007 terms at least — track on the D side called “Easy Way.” It was the first time the LP had been reissued since its original pressing in 1997. The original had two variants, one on Up Records for the US Market and the other on City Slang for the UK and European market. 

Originally announced as limited to 2,000 copies, it seems likely that it ended up being between 5,000 and 10,000 pressings due to the quality of people who have it in their Discogs collection. That number is in the upper 4,000 range.

The layout of the artwork on this re-issue has been re-arranged and therefore differs slightly from that of the original pressing.

Here are my picks for Built to Spill on Vinyl. Find them on Amazon.

hand-picked vinyl recommendations

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