REVIEW: Spoon - "Transference"

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In a moment of weakness, I admitted to my local bartender: "I don't think I like Spoon." This was 2007, a year before I heard Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, which was the first Spoon album that sunk all the way in. You see, it's not that I don't respect Spoon. It's that, if anything, I hold them to such incredibly high standards -- you listen to "The Way We Get By" and try not to do the same -- that when the standard isn't met, or changed, or exceeded...well, I can't help but feel a little disappointed. And, sorry indie rocker, half of the tunes on Kill the Moonlight don't get there.

Perhaps that's why Ga x5 was such a revelation. For the first time we heard Spoon change the rules of what they were doing. It wasn't a pursuit of erudite, slacker, super-pop but a grainy garage pop record, keeping the melody in the right place, but twisting the album, making it about weird little things -- Japanese cigarette cases, haunted neighborhoods, the band King Kong. For the first time, it felt like Brit Daniel felt at home in what he had written. The placement and musicality (as always was impeccable) but we were left without the blush or wink on previous albums -- Spoon had finally changed their own rules.

Two years later, Daniel and the guys drop Transference which seems to continue in the same vein as Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga to mixed results. First track "Before Destruction" sounds like it got ripped out of the same session as Ga's (astonishing) closer "Black like Me." The single "Written in Reverse" is fairly freewheeling and energetic but put side by side something like "The Underdog" or "Rhythm & Soul" and it starts to feel a little too controlled.

Yet, it must be said that merely by being a Spoon record, Transference manages to sound better than most things out there. But, you'll have to excuse me if it also doesn't confirm a bit of what I can't help but think about the band -- that they love their tricks and relish in them. I happen to think that that's a pretty pissy way to have a band. But Britt has been at it far longer than I. And maybe it's totally wrong to ask a group to live up to what they've already created, but when you here the unforced effervescence of "Goodnight Laura" and "Out Go the Lights," you may wonder the same thing I did -- why am I wasting my time on the first third of the album when these tracks are so incredible.

And that pretty much sums up my opinion on Spoon -- for such damnable amazing songwriters and musicians, they keep somehow missing my expectations. And, maybe that's not fair, but I am a fan. And the very least I can do as a fan is try to keep the people I relish on their toes.

1 comment:

  1. I gave this album a few spins over the weekend (broken street date, not illegal download) and came to the same conclusion about "Goodnight Laura" and "Out Go the Lights". The record kicks in so hard on side 2, it's hard to respect side 1 after you've heard it. Also like the comparison of "After Destruction" to "Black Like Me." Nice, thoughtful review.