Artist Spotlight: Spoon

Austin rock stalwarts Spoon have been so consistent, and consistently good, that review aggregator Metacritic named them artist of the decade, 2000-2009 .

If you’ve somehow missed out on the band, now’s as good a time as any to catch up.

Up top is the album opener from 2014’s excellent They Want My Soul (they always have good openers). “Rent I Pay” sputters to life like a two-stroke motorbike, songwriter/guitarist Britt Daniel checking to see if there’s any gas left in the tank of what sounds like a discarded Stones riff (“Jumpin’ Jack Flash” at half-speed, maybe).

“Jonathan Fisk”, off 2002’s Kill The Moonlight, tells the story of a childhood bully – it’s almost easy to miss the terror, when the song itself is such a model of propulsion and precision – its few simple components tightly assembled with a craftsman’s care into the musical equivalent of a sturdy Shaker chair, then sanded just enough by Daniel’s rasp of a voice.

Then that chair puts on a skinny tie and pointy new-wave shoes, and boogies all around the room:

Spoon – Jonathan Fisk

Speaking of that voice: Daniel’s has near-perfect proportions of hoarse shout, nasal yawp, pained falsetto, and marble-mouthed snottiness.

(Those are all complimentary descriptors, by the way; archetypal rock vocal ingredients).

Spoon – Rainy Taxi (acoustic version)

Let’s stay in the taxi, with “I Summon You” from 2005’s Gimme Fiction.

“Yeah, you got the weight of the world comin’ down like a mother’s eye”:

Spoon – I Summon You

What is with these guys and cars?

Spoon – Do You

A song that sort of recalls Prince covering “The Magnificent Seven”?

Yes, please:

Spoon – I Turn My Camera On

Sad Spoon (from 2001’s Girls can Tell):

Spoon – Everything Hits At Once

Happy Spoon:

Spoon – You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb

Rockin’ Spoon:

Spoon – Sister Jack

Spoon are all about addition-by-subtraction. A quintessential “less is more” kind of band, they know that the space left behind can be as powerful as what filled it.

On what is basically the onomatopoeic title track from 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, they stretch that concept almost (but not quite) to the point of breaking the song:

Spoon – The Ghost of You Lingers

When the announcement was made that maximalist producer Dave Fridmann (best known for work with neo-psych bands like the Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev) was doing some work on the album, I must admit I was concerned – Fridmann’s style can tend towards sonic clutter/overload, something that might clash with Spoon’s sometimes-skeletal aesthetic.

Turns out I needn’t have worried; the few obvious Fridmann touches – like the shimmering ‘harp’ here – are played strictly for atmosphere, and don’t unduly intrude upon all that beautiful space:

Spoon – Inside Out