“Aisle 13,” the opening track from Built to Spill’s There is No Enemy, grandly reintroduces the Idaho-based band back onto the modern indie rock scene.
On the track, lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Doug Martsch orchestrates multiple layers of surf guitars under his constantly distorted vocals. This sets the template early for the rest of the album.
The single, “Hindsight,” is a laid-back alt-country tune, complete with twangy slide guitar. While past albums have drawn comparisons to the Strokes and Modest Mouse, this sounds more like the bland aspects of post-Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Wilco.
At its worst, Enemy sinks to a slow, dark melodrama, especially painful on “Oh Yeah” and “Things Fall Apart.” Here, Martsch’s whiny, affected voice turns into a droning annoyance.
But there is still hope yet. “Aisle 13” and “Good Ol’ Boredom,” contrary to their titles, are probably the most upbeat songs on the album. After a perfectly strange intro, “Aisle 13” splashes in with a symphony of guitars, eventually settling on a catchy riff and strong, comfortable drumming. “Good Ol’ Boredom” drives forward with a snare hitting on every beat—think Motown—and Martsch’s vocals, which sound shockingly like John Lennon.
The best track on the album is “Done,” a pleasant, dreamy tune toward the far end of Enemy’s runtime. “Done”—almost seven minutes long—is the farthest departure from the band’s 2006 release You in Reverse, which had a more aggressive, tense sound. The title fits the tune here, as listeners feel Martsch’s relief upon finally completing Enemy after three-and-a-half years of work. After a listen or two, the product of this toil is evident, but it falls short of greatness.