Live tracks don’t do much for me. Which is not to say that I don’t like live music. Quite the opposite. But, I like the idea of an album even more. The idea that someone went through great effort to produce a specific piece of work—a thing—that has a specific feel, sound, sequence, texture, flavor…whatever. The whole point is that it’s supposed to be that way.
Live music is something else entirely for me. I love it, but it’s seldom in my regular rotation of songs.
With one exception.
Built to Spill’s Live feels like an album to me. The tracks are not even selected from the same show—the’re curated. It’s telling enough that the album is called “Live” in the first place (as opposed to “Live at…”). It’s live, there’s an audience, but it’s not the record of an event. It’s a somehow an album about that experience.
Only about one third of the tracks on Live are even songs from proper Built to Spill albums. “Virginia Reel Around the Fountain” is one such track, plucked from the back catalog of side project The Halo Benders. The rest of the album is rounded out with carefully selected covers. The band’s longtime producer even worked the sound for these performances. It still feels like an album.
So, why bother making an album like this? Because live music is something different. Something worth hearing. Something worth making. Something worth documenting.
For the record, I have no idea what this song is about. But, Built to Spill absolutely succeed at capturing whatever feeling is at the heart of these cryptic lyrics. It’s a great example of how music can carry you someplace that words don’t quite reach. Best not let lyrics get in the way.