HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 3 August 2007
Warning: Spoon have changed their sound, and made it poppier. If that fills you with dread, flee to the fire exits.
And their latest album "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" (a little dada homage) is Spoon trying out some new styles for their music. It's crammed crammed with more uptempo, energetic melodies, played on the bones of the band's tightly-wound, grimy rock'n'roll and darkly elusive lyrics. It's not a masterpiece, but it's not merely a rock band "going pop."
It kicks off with the tight, grimy riffs and thumping piano, with Britt Daniel murmuring, "Here come the man from the stars/we don't know why he go so far/and keep on marching along/beating his drum." It has a political vibe, without being too blatant about it ("When you reach back in his mind/feels like he's breaking the law...").
Okay. Now the experimentation begins, with percussive piano and Daniels' murmuring, echoing voice, like a ghost stuck inside a piano. And it's followed by the lush horn-and-piano rocker "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb," which seems to be straddling the line between "fun and catchy" and "raw."
From there, they do some distinctly different spins on their usual raw rock'n'roll, which usually turn out pretty catchy -- tightly-wound guitar pop splashed with horns, rough-edged ballads, blazing dancey rock tunes, the grimy funky "Eddie's Ragga," a rattling acoustic rocker, and some raw powerpop flavoured with Hammond.
To be honest, the news that Spoon was trying out a "new" sound was enough to make me hop around in a panic. Well, I shouldn't have done that. While "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" is not a rock masterpiece on the level of "Gimme Fiction," the Austin band does an excellent job of dressing up their trademark sound with some new flourishes.
At heart, not much has actually changed -- Daniel provides the music with tight, grimy, sinewy guitar riffs, which form the core of almost every song, and some subtle, solid bass and wonderfully sharp drums. They form intense, complex melodies that grow stronger and more complex as each song proceeds.
But the music is bouncier and more colourful. The spare rock tunes are flavoured with Spanish guitar, shimmering Hammond organ, distorted voices, harp, haunting synth and horns -- some used sparingly, some in every other song. And Eric Harvey drapes a few of the songs in haunting, strong piano melodies -- particularly when he plays it like percussion.
Daniel's voice is rough and a bit scratchy most of the time; it's surprising that he's able to sound so peppy, considering that the songs hint at political strife, drug use, loneliness and heartache, and a girlfriend compared to a cherry bomb. Always hinted, never obvious ("The ghost of you lingers/Put on a clinic till we hit the wall... I had a nightmare nothing could be put back together").
Spoon take their sinewy rock'n'roll, and dress it up in colourful, rich clothing -- very different from their past sound, but "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" will grow on you.