A deceptive, addictive album, revelling in hidden depths.
Chris Roberts 2010-01-21
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.
Like heyday Big Star, they shimmy into under-lit corners of emotional heft and trembling vulnerability. That they do this with laser-like precision rather than a ramshackle hope-for-the-best scattergun approach is a trick that emphasises their unique approach. Imagine if The Rolling Stones were as averse to any flab as Kraftwerk. Okay, you can’t. That’s just nuts. But Spoon, compellingly, can.
Their first since 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (titled before Lady Gaga was born!), a US top ten album, bravely forsakes its cheery-loser anthems and taps into veins Spoon were staring at on such previous darker hits as I Turn My Camera On. The persistent, nagging falsetto and determination to stay in a groove until it’s yielded all possible fruits and only then quit it reminds you of Prince: if Camera was their Kiss, much here is their If I Was Your Girlfriend. It sounds salacious even when it’s probably not. They understand the aphrodisiac qualities of a perfect poised balance between restraint and expressed yearning.
Is Love Forever? kicks in like T. Rex’s Jeepster then settles into an understated chug while Daniel emotes enigmatically. That pretty much sets the tone, as cool cruiserweights like The Mystery Zone and Who Makes Your Money embody a sense of desire while steadfastly pursuing one musical idea with clean sonics and dirty impulses. Every guitar interjection makes a point. At times they’re as psychotically accurate as Wire, but colour that with the lean Americana of the first Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album.
Ghostly piano ballad Goodnight Laura is the only anomaly, but their muscular metronome reappears for the denouement of Got Nuffin and Nobody Gets Me But You (“nobody gets what I’m saying / but maybe I never wanted them to”). A great poet once opined that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Within Spoon’s astute use of sunny structure, a brooding heart of murky frustration lurks. A deceptive, addictive album, revelling in hidden depths.