Thursday, May 24, 2007

Don't Make Me A Target

Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Merge Records, 2007

Austin, TX's Spoon has always been one of those "almost" bands. Every time they release an album, it seems to be on the tip of every rock critic's tongue, and yet, they can never seem to get that big break. Not even the big break by indie rock standards. Not even some degree Shins or Death Cab-esque success amongst the college set. Lead singer and principal songwriter Britt Daniel always just escapes recognition as an incredible songwriter, regardless of the fact that Spoon's work is often associated with the new millenium rebirth of the endlessly influential Austin music scene. No matter how much acclaim they recieve, Spoon, like Andy Richter, "just can't seem to attract a real audience."

To be fair, I was one of those people that passed the band over time and time again before actually settling down and listening to 2005's Gimme Fiction, and even then, it was only because I had heard "I Turn My Camera On" on an episode of Veronica Mars and Against Me!'s Tom Gabel had declared it one of his favorite albums of the year. It's hard to recognize what it is about Spoon that makes them so exciting or listenable. There are moments when you want to say that it sounds kind of run-of-the-mill, but there's just something in there that keeps you coming back, trying to solve its puzzle. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga isn't a rock and roll album, and it's not a straight pop album. It straddles the line between rock and pop better than any other band has in the last ten years. The album is heavy on the piano, which is hardly a bad thing. The haunting second track, "The Ghost of You Lingers," fades in three different vocal parts one after the other, sounding (surprise!) like ghosts, while the organ jams away incessantly to a point that's almost obnoxious.

Why Spoon cannot attract an audience is inexplicable. The songs are there. Songs like "The Underdog" and "My Little Japanese Cigarette Case" sound like they could have been outtakes from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. They would fit in on Top 40 stations, they would fit on alternative stations. So why is it that a great song like the closing track, "Black Like Me," will probably never see the light of day, except for maybe in the background of a Coke commercial? Well, I don't really have an answer for that. Perhaps it's not really energetic enough for the rock crowd, or it's a little too simple for the indie crowd. Either way, it's not important. Some of the best artists go unnoticed during their time.

The dub posturing of "Eddie's Ragga" sounds more authentic than it should coming from a pop-rock band from Texas, which kicks off the stellar b-side of the album. While, not to say anything bad about the album's first 5 tracks, it's on the last half where it really picks up steam and shows the progression Spoon has made as a band, and that Daniels has made as a songwriter. The horn section in "The Underdog" sounds like it was lifted straight out of one of the Fab Four's poppiest tunes, which should make for some interesting comparisons, and the rhythm section of Jim Eno and Rob Pope are one of the tightest in operation today, and Spoon is lucky to have them as an anchor for each song.

To say something like, "Spoon has finally released the album that will send them hurtling into mega-stardom," is a complete falsification. After six full-length albums, it seems unlikely that people will be eager to just jump on all of a sudden. Spoon's ethereal and powerful pop-rock hasn't changed in style, it's just gotten better since 1996's Telephono. People who haven't given them a chance by now aren't going to any more convinced to, but hey, it's completely their loss. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is a near-perfect pop record without being too boring or over-caffinated, and likely one of the best we're bound to hear this year. (4.5/5 Stars)
Key Tracks: "Eddie's Ragga", "The Underdog", "My Little Japanese Cigarette Case", "Finer Feelings"
More Along These Lines: The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema, The Beatles - Revolver, Interpol - Antics
Download The Album In The Free Link I've Provided For Your Broke Ass:
Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

That last "More Along These Lines" is there because Interpol and Spoon have similarly tight rhythm sections. It's something I've always compared about the two. I'm on the last leg of this 16 hour RSR shift. I get to go home in about 30 minutes, which is exciting, althought I'm dreading the thought of walking home. Big props to my man Austin on this review. A lot of what appears in here came from a conversation we were having while I was writing this.

I'd have more to say, but I just posted like 8 hours ago, and in that time, all I've done was sit and watch TV. Although, I have been watching Rock Star, starring Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston, and man, that movie BLOWS. "So stop watching it," you tell me. Oh yeah, and why don't I stop breathing while I'm at it. Dick.

That's it for today. I'll be back tomorrow, as always. I might go to the movies tonight, so I might have something to say about that. Later, skaters.

1 comment:

Divine Hammer said...

comparing spoon to andy richter is spot-on. i didn't give them a second chance until i learned adrian was a huge fan and became overwhelmed with curious to why adrian would like them. and i still didnt see it until "the two sides of monsieur valentine" came on and then "i summon you" sealed it for me. before that the only song i liked by them was "me and the bean" for reasons that stemmed beyond the song itself.

as for the austin scene, do you listen to Peter & the Wolf or Voxtrot?