You will like the new Brett Netson solo album Simple Work For the Dead if you love Built to Spill. I personally like Built to Spill, in part because they possess what Simple Work For the Dead so belligerently lacks: a sense of humor. This album seems suffused with cold gray light. In the promotional material, Netson explains that "if there is a reoccurring theme, it's a meditation on the end of capitalism and cheap energy." Compare this approach to the work of, say, KISS, whose reoccurring [sic] theme was partying every day. Those are two different understandings of what rock music should do, and one of them is considerably more ambitious.
That ambition would be noble if it were more fully realized. Unfortunately, Simple Work For the Dead also sounds like it was simple work for Brett Netson. Most of the tracks were recorded "as they were written and in one sitting," which is a recipe for either vibrant spontaneity or disappointment. At approximately 20 percent rock and 80 percent minor-key dirges, disappointment wins the day here. In places, the album sounds like the call to embrace meaningful uncertainty that Netson wanted it to be. Mostly, it just sounds slight.