Spoon is Britt Daniel's band, an Austin-based project that started by ripping off
the Pixies on the
EP Nefarious (Fluffer, 1995), especially in The Government Darling,
and on the album Telephono (Matador, 1996), particularly
Don't Buy The Realistic.
The EP Soft Effects (Matador, 1997) continued in that vein of
catchy songs with intellectual overtones
(Mountain To Sound, Waiting For The Kid To Come Out) while
letting one gentle Loss Leaders steal the show.
Telephono/ Soft Effects (Merge, 2006) collects album and EP.
A Series Of Sneaks (Elektra, 1998 - Merge, 2002) was an ill-fated commercial attempt.
Increased doses of melody in Execution, 30 Gallon Tank,
Car Radio and No You're Not simply proved that Spoon are
almost as derivative as Brit-pop, while
recycling an incredible number of riffs and melodies from the annals of
power-pop (all the way from the Kinks' You Really Got Me down to
the Romantics' What I Like About You).
The most original music was to be found in quieter numbers such as
June's Foreign Spell.
Their demise by the major label is documented in the single
The Agony Of Laffitte (Saddle Creek, 1999), but they forget to mention
that the music was so formulaic and mainstream that even a major label may
have had problems selling it.
Britt Daniel, Josh Zarbo and Jim Eno regrouped with
Loveways (Merge, 2000), an eclectic EP that runs the gamut from
Calexico atmospherics (Change My Life) to southern
boogie (Didn't Come Here to Die) to
power-pop (Jealousy, one of their best) and to Rolling Stones-ian
blues (Figures of Art).
Spoon were soon hailed as the brightest promises of the punk-pop genre
after the Nirvana-infected Girls Can Tell (Merge, 2001).
The Cars seemed to be a major influence too (Believing Is Art)
but the most innocent
melodies owed something to the Tamla-soul and the Mersey-beat of the Sixies
(Anything You Want, one of their catchiest numbers ever).
Except for the anthemic Take The Fifth and Fitted Shirt,
the trio preferred a sparse, relaxed, "domestic" sound
(Everything Hits At Once, Lines in the Suit, Me and the Bean).
Something is wrong with Kill The Moonlight (Merge, 2002),
although one can't quite pinpoint what.
Daniel takes a stab at a number of different song structures and styles,
rarely missing the target, but none is completely satisfactory, and each
seems to straddle the line between two satisfactory songs neither of which
is allowed to bloom. For example, the single
Someone Something sounds like the Pixies covering Elvis Costello.
Jonathon Fisk, All The Pretty Girls Go To The City and
Give Me Something to Look Forward To are sprightly and effervescent,
but somehow they cannot transcend their models (garage-rock, new wave,
An "acid" mellotron in Back To The Life and a
synthesizer coupled with a drum-machine in Stay Don't Go
may be admissions that something has to be changed, or the stubborn quest
for a minimalist arrangement style.
In the meantime, the teenage ode The Way We Get By codifies their
philosophy of life.
The orchestration sounded a bit out of control (but perhaps also
"deliciously" out of control) on Gimme Fiction (Merge, 2005), their
darkest and most intimidating album yet.
By this album, the attention had shifted from the songwriting to the
understated arrangements and to the vocal delivery
(the spare I Turn My Camera On, the melancholy The Beast and Dragon Adored).
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge, 2007) turned the idea of the previous three
albums into a dogma. Tunes such as
Don't Make Me a Target,
You Got Yr Cherry Bomb and
Underdog boasted memorable hooks but also a minimal approach to
arranging, the opposite of Phil Spector's "wall of sound".
Other tunes, such as Rhythm And Soul and The Ghost Of You Lingers
sound deliberately unfinished, as if requiring the listener to work too in
order to make the music whole.
The four-song EP Got Nuffin (Merge, 2009) contains
Tweakers and Stroke Their Brains besides the single
Too many songs on
Transference (Merge, 2010) use the arrangement/production to hide their
weakness. The midtempo, martial singalong Written In Reverse
and some generic melodic hard-rock reminiscent of the 1970s
(Got Nuffin) are hardly impressive. Spoon fare better when the
arrangement is not merely a diguise but actually a complement to the
composition, as is the case in the
warped rap-dub aural experience of Who Makes Your Money.
Britt Daniel formed the Divine Fits with keyboardist Alex Fischel.
Eric Harvey released a solo album, Lake Disappointment.
Then they reunited (adding Fischel to the line-up) for
They Want My Soul (Loma Vista, 2014),
meticulous produced by Joe Chiccarelli and Dave Fridmann.
The songs constitute a parade of quotations from the classics:
The Rent I Pay is an awful tribute to the Rolling Stones,
Do You renews their Elvis Costello obsession,
the electronic dance Outlier fuses the Bee Gees of Saturday Night Fever and the Stone Roses,
More original (or, at least, better engineered) are the rhythms of the
humbler tunes that close the album: the
marching pulsation of Let Me Be Mine (with celestial synths and a
guitar that winks at the refrain of David Bowie's Jean Genie)
and the propulsive techno beat of New York Kiss (with nostalgic
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