I remember the first time I heard Built to Spill. I was at a co-worker's apartment, playing NCAA Football on the Playstation 2. He'd recently purchased a Mac and had some good speakers set up for it and was letting iTunes play some random songs. "Junior" had eclectic taste in music, but was mostly a Pitchfork/indie type.
So there we are in his sparsely decorated, very bachelor apartment. We're playing the game and I'm getting the ever-loving shit beat out of me when "Carry The Zero" starts up. At this point, my hyper-competitive ass is far less interested in the assbeating I'm taking, fixating on the song I'm hearing. I ask Junior to pause the game and tell me what we're listening to.
Junior was an interesting sort of character. He graduated Vanderbilt with honors. His family lives in South Carolina, yet Junior had a bit of the Cali-surfer thing going, especially when he said the word "awesome."
"Dude, it's Built To Spill. They're a-a-a-wesome."
I asked him what the name of the song was, and we listened to it two or three more times before I relented and let his playlist move forward to some atonal warbling from Will Oldham, Conor Oberst, or someone like that. When my destruction at his hands was over, I asked him to make me a copy of the Built To Spill CD and I listened to "Carry The Zero" all the way home.
It took a long time for me to stop listening to that one song and try the rest of the record. It wasn't love at first listen the way "Zero" had been for me. Over a period of months, I would periodically go back to that record until at long last it finally clicked into place.
Doug Martsch is simultaneously a guitar god and guitar anti-hero. Most guitar gods come from the school of Hendrix, where dazzling speed and spectacular chops overwhelm and inspire awe. This is where your Satrianis, Vais, Malmsteens, and Van Halens dwell. The other camp in guitar god land are the riff kings, guys like Keith Richards and Chuck Berry.