Spoon – Transference
Merge
Words: James

Considering Spoon’s popularity, their Aughties releases have sparked surprisingly little debate.  More often than not, it seems, the more well-known a band becomes, the more dissenters will follow.  It’s just common sense.  But the band’s previous four releases have been met with a steady increase in fan base and just as steady a backing from critics.  Transference however, is sure to meet a bit more skepticism than its predecessors did before it.  Why?  Simply put, the Austin based foursome’s seventh album shows veterans reshaping, though not revolutionizing, their sound.

It’s easiest to draw comparisons to 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, arguably Spoon’s “breakout album”, because it’s the closest thing we have, both temporally and stylistically.  Ga Ga, we’ll call it for practical purposes, is made up of full and familiar songs, the kind you feel like you know the first time you hear them.  It plays like a party, with groove gems like “Rhythm & Soul”,  “Don’t Make Me a Target”, and “Don’t You Evah” and horn-filled “The Underdog.”  Even its most grounded songs had an uncanny accessibility, and that was a great deal of its charm – everything about it is eye-catching – from its garish title, to its casual lyrical themes and satin bass lines.

But neither gaud nor charm is Transference’s aim.  It’s neither a continuation of the direction Spoon seemed to be taking, nor different enough to shock.  Like any Spoon album, Transference’s strength lies in its singles (“Got Nuffin” and “Written in Reverse”) but their existence allows for further exploration.  It contains Spoon basics (namely strong key harmonies and smooth, unassuming bass lines whose seeming effortlessness make them all the more enchanting) but draws you in with unfamiliar sounds from the very get-go.  Droning static greets you as the album begins with “Before Destruction”, an atypical love song that lacks typical Spoon hooks.  There’s no particular song to cite as a sharp break from Ga Ga, but rather a change in trend from fuller, orchestral compositions to simpler, porous songs.  What’s most impressive is the smartness with which Spoon uses elements of their early work to help create their new identity.  So perhaps it’s no coincidence that the song that most evokes Spoon’s purer punk roots (throwback track “Trouble”) is paired with the song that would sound least familiar to an early Spoon fan (“Goodnight Laura”, a simple and honest piano ballad that sees frontman Britt Daniel in rare form: with his guard down.)  And, of course, the band performs its usual winsome tricks, like the appropriately puzzling abrupt cut-off at the end of “Mystery Zone” and the unintelligible lyrics hidden in “I Saw the Lights”s instrumental interlude that most likely came from the same monstrous entity who threatened to cut us into tiny little pieces on Pink Floyd’s “One of These Days.”

The album’s climax comes on standout track “Written in Reverse”, both Transference’s most lyrically focused piece and a perfect representation of their change in sound.  And Daniel is as spot on as he’s ever been: “I know nothing was planned, you just can’t help yourself/Some people are so easily shuffled and dealt/If there was only one of us you truly felt/We’re getting your all and it feels real good/But only briefly like high school poppers would.”  Okay, so it’s impossible to match the lyrical prowess of songs like “Don’t Make Me a Target” (“Clubs and sticks and bats and balls/For nuclear dicks with their dialect drawls/ That come from a parking lot town/Where nothing lives in the sun”), but Daniel sure hasn’t lost his touch.

Transference gives Spoon fans eleven excellent new tracks on which to feed, while broadening the band’s loyal following.  It doesn’t shock us or leave us in disbelief.  What it does do is give Spoon a strong foothold in the company of the great bands, not just of our generation, but of all time.  You won’t find many critics willing to call this album better than Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, and I’m not sure I’m quite ready to do so myself.  But something tells me when we prepare our decade lists in 10 years, we’ll look back on Transference as Spoon’s best work, a culmination of their previous personalities that delivers a whole new sound, rather than a combination of old ones.


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[…] or a CD. (via Pitchfork)  While it doesn’t include any material from their latest album, Transference, it does have versions of a few of their best earlier works, including “Don’t Let It […]

Inflatable Ferret » Spoon Release Demos added these pithy words on Dec 01 10 at 10:12 am

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