Spoon has been around for a while now, and they continue to be one of the most satisfying acts of the indie scene. The band has grown artistically with each album, and 2007’s “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga” was every critic’s darling. In the history of rock this usually means the following album is either going to repeat the formula, (Steve Miller’s “Book of Dreams”) allow egos to run free where they may (U2’s “Rattle and Hum”) and / or fall well below the heightened expectations. Thank goodness Spoon is still far enough outside of the mainstream to be able to afford the luxury of keeping their integrity intact.
So did they improve on the previous effort? Perhaps not, but I don’t think that was the intention. “Transference” is more of a musical side step. Where “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga” was the finely tuned, slickly produced, full on expression of what the band does best, this album pulls back on the reins. For the first self-produced effort they decided to go with a more raw and minimal approach.
Now I know no matter how lush the production, there is always a certain minimalist aspect to Spoon’s music. That is a large portion of their charm. It just seems to have been more of a goal on Transference. On “Before Destruction” the opening vocal must have been recorded with Britt Daniel standing far behind the microphone. Each instrument that joins is done so almost separately. The fullness is created solely by the use of Mellotron. That’s right, Mellotron. Does this mean spoon is going prog? No it just shows how creative they are (and it’s not the first time).
Songs like “Is Love Forever” go right back to their punk / alternative roots, with simple drums, one simple guitar chord, and a nice bit of echo for fun. And “Mystery Zone” sounds like it could have come from “Girls Can Tell.” However, there are little things thrown in that make these familiar themes not so familiar.
“Who Makes Your Money” goes into a little psychedelic trance zone. “Got Nuffin” opens up like “My Sharona” as it turns to sonically resemble Joy Division. And “Goodnight Laura” could find comfortable company on The Beatles “White Album, or John Lennon’s “Plastic Ono Band.”
Even with the experimentation and open influences, Spoon never takes it so far as to lose their own identity. No one song really sounds like anybody else. Nor does it really sound like any other Spoon album. It’s close, but different in a way that’s not always easy to put your finger on. There is a bit of a conundrum. Things are kept simple, but when listening closely you have to ask yourself, “Is it really that simple?” When boiled right down this band writes very catchy (if dark) tunes in an extremely artful, and seemingly effortless way. It is only upon closer inspection that you discover creating music like this is no simple task.
Fans of earlier work may think “Transference” is either a step backward, or the usually slump after a big success. I would beg to disagree. The charm is in how they let the art spawn organically. Write good music and let it take its own course. It may take a few listens, but it is very possible this could become your favorite Spoon album.
Britt Daniel – guitar, vocals
Jim Eno – drums
Eric Harvey – keyboard, guitar, percussion, backing vocals,
Rob Pope – bass, guitar, keyboards, backing vocals