They Want A Spoonful Of Your Soul
If you think it is possible for a rock outfit to at once straddle a noise-filled, experimental, post-punk sound as well as a hook-laden, melodic, pop one, then Spoon’s your band. Even if you’re not seeking out such genre-hopping attributes in your listening fare, Spoon, really, should be your band.
Because it is one enduring, nearly two-decade-old band that has received much less attention (outside of the US) than it ought to. And, also because on its eight records, beginning with 1996’s Telephono right up to last week’s They Want My Soul, it’s a band that has never disappointed listeners. Their music might have evolved – they’re not nearly as garage-y as they were in their very early days and their new album is polished and has a far more resplendent sound than any of their others – but pick up any Spoon album and you’re likely not to regret it.
But then what’s not to like about a band that has at its core two hugely talented musicians? Frontman singer and guitarist Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno are the founder-drivers of this Austin, Texas band, which began deceptively as a post-punk act. Spoon’s first full-length, Telephono, was guitar-led and noisy and led many people to liken them to the Pixies, another (if a decade older) influential American band. But that comparison was short-lived. By the time Spoon launched their second and third albums, they had quite clearly demonstrated that this was a band with its own trademark.
Also watch: Spoon – Full Performance (Live on KEXP)
And one of the important traits of that mark is Daniel’s vocals. You couldn’t ask for more perfect vocals – style, attitude and tone – in a rock band: Daniel has the ideal combination of snarls, yelps and growls, while being infectiously melodic. If I were asked to nitpick about his songs, I could say the only weakness is in their lyrics, which aren’t the best thing about their music.
But then, who cares about what the lyrics mean in a pureblooded rock band like Spoon? Their 20-year tenure has been a dream run. Rarely have their albums let you down and, because of their ability to appeal to both, indie nerds and classic rock fans, they’ve always been successful, although I think they deserve a much bigger audience than what they have. Perhaps the new album’s smarter (albeit a bit synth-y) sound will help do that. They Want My Soul enlists a big-name producer (David Fridmann, who has worked with bands such as MGMT and Flaming Lips), has a less minimalistic and more room-filling sound than earlier Spoon albums but retains the band’s characteristic vocals, guitar riffs and drums and percussion, all of which makes it a great album.
I put They Want My Soul on repeat for a couple of times; got hooked on a few tracks – the opener, Rent I Pay (the snare drums grab you instantly), New York Kiss (the groovy electronica urges you to get up and shake a leg) and Outlier (which, I read, was evidently inspired by British singer PJ Harvey’s The Glorious Land; I tried to look for similarities and couldn’t find any) – and then, obsessively, went back and listened to the Spoon back catalogue. Starting with Telephono (1996) right up to Transference (2010). If you haven’t heard Spoon and want a soft landing, I’d recommend starting with their idiotically titled 2007 album, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. Nothing idiotic about the songs on it, including the virulently infectious You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb. Newbies beware. That album may get you hooked to Spoon.
Now, for a quick jazz interlude. I’m not a very big fan of the genre but I do have my favourite jazz albums. Pianist Keith Jarrett’s Fort Yawuh and his live album, The Köln Concert; another live recording from 1953, Jazz At Massey Hall featuring the killer quintet of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Bud Powell and Max Roach; Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew; Thelonious Monk’s It’s Monk’s Time and a few others. To that list I’ve just added a contemporary cheeky ensemble called Mostly Other People Do The Killing.
Also watch: MOPDtK @ Moers Jazz Festival part 1
A New York City quartet, MOPDTK offer a modern twist on different styles of jazz through the ages, not without some satire and a hint of wickedness. They take bebop and mix it up with the avant-garde; they start a track that seems to be of a smooth, easy listening kind and then turn it into a massively improvised jam. I have just one album of theirs – last year’s Slippery Rock! – and I think it’s rekindled my urge to explore jazz a bit more. Let’s see what happens.
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