by Joe Gutierrez (@steadlean)
You have to understand, there’s an enormous amount of pressure and responsibility that comes with writing about a piece of art entitled “There’s Nothing Wrong With Love.” Despite that, I jumped at the opportunity to spill my guts about a record that has always sat firmly at the top of my list of dream reissues. I’m embarrassed to say I still haven’t bought the vinyl. I’m almost too scared to hold something so powerful in my bare hands. This work has been a cloud hanging over my head for over a month, and I’ve found endless excuses and distractions to postpone writing about it. The year is drawing to a close, though, and it’s time to talk about it.
“There’s Nothing Wrong With Love” was released on September 13, 1994. Keep in mind, “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain”, “Blue Album”, “Bee Thousand”, and “Yank Crime” had all already entered the headphones of young indie rock aficionados earlier that year. Though I imagine Built To Spill delivered something different, and at exactly the right time. Their sophomore album must have poured into the ears of many a student fresh into their fall semester, injecting them with the warmth & shelter needed throughout the storm of uncertainty of what was supposed to happen next. And what could anchor the human heart and mind from floating off into the void but an album defending the validity of mankind’s greatest mystery- love.
Appropriately titled album opener “In The Morning” rolls in with a foggy false start, pretty and plain, ‘til the real song comes cascading in like the dawn. A jagged jam carries Doug Martsch’s desperate proclamations of feeling. Procrastination is promised as “next day, next day, next day...” echoes ‘til it shrinks and disappears. The next verse floats atop shimmery twinkling-star guitar. There’s a space station solo, like the score to a moon landing. The song ends punctuated by an abrupt and harshly delivered “I just have to stop”. “Reasons” is a love song, or at least some sort of ode to attraction and reliability. One strummed chord rings out, summoning a subtly requested “come through me” out over noodly bass and toe-tapping beat. The chorus’ repetition of “they are all reasons to” juxtaposed with different long E sounds begs to be sung along to and understood. That line “stay with me until I die, there’s nothing else I wanna try” makes my heart skip a beat everytime I hear it. What else could make a better case for love? And there’s an Andy Kaufman reference- need I say more? “Reasons.” A concept we all struggle with, every day. Asking ourselves, asking others, asking the universe. “Why?”
The only physical copy I’ve ever owned of the album is lost to me now. I found the CD on a Goodwill shelf in North Adams, Massachusetts, while visiting the only person I’ve ever had any semblance of “true love” with. We listened to it driving to the airport through the backwoods in the rain, the first time she’d ever heard it, the last time I’d ever see her. I abandoned the album in her car as we unknowingly said our last goodbye. It’s weird how things like that work. The next time I listened to “There’s Nothing Wrong With Love” was when I decided to write this piece.
Is love just a chemical reaction in the brain or is there a sort of supernatural something to it? Are we all just bouncing around life randomly ‘til we match, or is it written in the stars somewhere? This polarity is reflected sonically and lyrically all over the record. The tender dream-plucked riffs and the harshly heavy fuzzed-out breakdowns. Lines delivered like they’ve been scrawled in notebooks versus dispatched cosmic truths. Unpacked must be the mind of Doug Martsch circa 1994- the instances, the dreams, thoughts, beliefs, wants, needs, experiences. All tossed into a Fender blender and spit back out upon gorgeous watercolor words. A mirror we can glance into to save us from falling into our own doubts & fears, knowing someone else out there climbed out of the dark to see the sun rise again.