Release Date: Jan 19, 2010
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
“Spoon had better be worth it” thought our devilishly handsome protagonist as he handed the cashier his debit card at his local record store. “They had better be worth $726 fucking dollars, twenty phone calls to Chase Bank and just as many headaches.” You see, the week before, tickets for Spoon’s tour featuring Deerhunter and Micachu went on sale in Seattle. Andrew, living about 150 miles north of the Emerald City, had to purchase them online from the theater.
You can’t help but grin at this self-produced seventh offering from the indie stalwarts, who came awfully close to hitting the mainstream with their 2007 album, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, and have now retreated to a perfect distillation of the Spoon sound: steady staccato rhythms, occasional guitar bursts, and the wry vocals of frontman Britt Daniel. It may pretty much lack any semblance of conventional verse-chorus-verse structure, but for those who find the metronomic abstractions of this band soothing, Transference is exactly what you crave, unadorned. A- Download This: Listen to the song Who Makes Your Money at last.fm See all of this week’s reviews .
Spoon strips down—a little—on seventh album How do you follow an album like Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga? Released in 2007, Spoon’s sixth full-length was both its most challenging and successful album to date. The Austin band indulged its every studio whim and bolstered its antsy sound with fuller percussion and Memphis-style horns. Songs like “The Ghost of You Lingers” and “Eddie’s Ragga” were discursive experiments, and even the catchiest tunes had subdued hooks.
Spoon are a pretty consistent bunch. Consistent in sound and pretty darned consistent in quality. Since their 1996 debut Telephono they have gradually refined the Pixies-indebted indie rock of that record into something simultaneously more pop-savvy and complex with their neat use of production tricks an increasingly distinctive trait. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, from 2007, saw Spoon reach their apex in this regard; a record where auditory adventurousness (see 'The Ghost of You Lingers') and pop nous ('The Underdog') not only sat comfortably side by side, but where the former actually served the needs of the latter, as on the modernised Motown of 'You Got Yr.
John Peel's description of the Fall - "always different, always the same" - might equally apply to the Austin, Texas band Spoon, who have made it to seven albums without any significant variation in high quality. Leader Britt Daniel is a master of economy, writing songs to sparse and clipped arrangements, with his own guitar often providing a rhythmic counterpoint to the imaginative drumming of Jim Eno. His world-weary sounding voice doesn't have a great range, but he knows how to make the best of it, throwing in whoops and falsettos sparingly but effectively, and harmonising with himself on the garage pop of Trouble Comes Running.
When you remove the layers of hype, walk away from the number of “Best of the Decade” lists that the band keeps popping up on these days, and just look at it for what it is, Transference, Spoon’s seventh full-length album, is really just another Spoon album . . .
(in fact, many of these songs are basically demos), with a roomy sound that just underlines their urgency. Compared to Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and Gimme Fiction’s polish, the Who-esque “Trouble Comes Running” might as well have been recorded on a four-track, while “Goodnight Laura”’s intimacy and imperfections make it a braver and more vulnerable lullaby. Any veneers in Britt Daniel's writing have been stripped away along with the sonic gloss, revealing songs that are more emotional, and filled with more emotions: “Written in Reverse” is the fieriest Spoon song in years, all bashed pianos and snarled vocals comparing the odd happy moments in a dying relationship to high school poppers.
Austin-based quartet Spoon has always been adept at injecting subtle, bittersweet tones into their snarky brand of rock. Cavernous pop single “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” from 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is a perfect example of the band’s penchant for maintaining a ghostly sadness beneath all the richly laden fire and fuzz, keenly matching vocalist Britt Daniel’s preferred role as a pained, hoarse brute.
Up to this point, Spoon have employed their signature tight pocket grooves as a shorthand for authority, certainty, and swagger. It's one of the most appealing things about the band, and the sound has made even Britt Daniel's most vulnerable moments seem grounded and forthright. They've turned it all inside-out on Transference, subtly shifting the leading signifiers of Spoon-iness just so for a destabilizing effect.
There’s a moment on every Spoon album, typically within the first five songs, that you realize that these guys are on top of their game like no other band around. Record to record, there’s no significant drop off in quality, just fussed-over pop songs with hooks to spare, all deceptive in their simplicity. Because while most of Spoon’s tracks sound like they were conceived of and committed to wax in 10 minutes, main Spoon man Britt Daniel has been obsessing over this stuff for years in some cases.
I’d imagine that Spoon must be pretty sick of hearing how much they’ve always sounded like Spoon by now. With each of their albums this past decade, the notion that Britt Daniel and co. have been repeatedly airing out the same (very good) brand of rock ’n’ roll has been widespread enough to edge the outlines of a consensus. Even though few critics cared for the band prior to 2001’s Girls Can Tell, Magnet heralded the third LP’s success as a continuation of their reliable “stock in trade.” Pitchfork asserted that the following year’s Kill the Moonlight progressed by “tak[ing] a scalpel to the highlight reel of their career,” cutting and pasting themselves into a magnum opus.
Spoon have been uniformly terrific for seven consecutive albums, each no less excellent than the last. But being uniformly anything after a while (say, seven albums) becomes tiresome. [rssbreak] Transference features their trademark easy-to-swallow fuzzy-guitar pop. There are fewer clap-along, ready-for-radio singles, but much of the classic Spoon sound remains.
A deceptive, addictive album, revelling in hidden depths. Chris Roberts 2010 If you’re not yet conversant with the tantalising magic of Spoon – seven albums in, you should be – this is a fine place to develop a taste. Possibly you’ve been put off by the phrase “Texan guitar band”, which suggests the subtlety of a yee-hawing redneck. But Spoon, led by Britt Daniel’s extraordinarily intense and focussed voice, are pretty much a soul band who happen to be four white men in a rock group.
What can you say about an album that before it’s released you know will end up on the year end best-of lists? Certain bands need only to mention they have something new coming out and before the first leaked track has been heard the album is given A+ status. After debuting at #4 on the Billboard charts Transference is in many hands, sharing space with the likes of Taylor Swift. So yes, by now we all know that it’s another Spoon classic and indeed will be remembered at the end of the year.
Onetime local underdogs Spoon were recently calculated by Metacritic to be the most critically acclaimed band of the last decade on the strength of four indisputably great albums – Girls Can Tell (2001), Kill the Moonlight (2002), Gimme Fiction (2005), Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007) – each one reacting to and building upon what came before it. Following the breakout commercial and chart success of its pristine predecessor, Transference takes a slight retreat as Spoon's first self-produced album. While even the band's most marketable material has been spiked with acute studio experimentation – the background chatter and double-tracked vocals in "Don't You Evah" for example – left to their own devices, those details dominate the band's seventh album, style consistently disguising a lack of structure and self-sustaining songs, which separates the LP from its most obvious comparison point, 1998's A Series of Sneaks.