Wednesday, January 20, 2010
In my younger days, I bristled at the thought of a band evolving. Why did Radiohead have to go and eff things up when The Bends rocked so hard? Couldn't they have just set up a studio in the land of riffs and whines and stamped these out ad infinitum? Sure they could have, but can you imagine a decade without songs like Idioteque, There There and Myxomatosis? Me either.
Spoon has made a career out of cranking out taut, efficient pop-rock albums, every song threatening to be copped for an indie film or a TV show (The OC, ahem). Even their experimental twists like The Ghost of You Lingers on Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga are still obstensibly Spoon. Maybe that's why the first few tracks off Transference feel so wobbly. Not wobbly in a bad way, wobbly in that the reliable strum progression doesn't go where you expect, and you feel an uneasiness. Spoon is operating without the safety net of bridges and a chorus here, and you're scared for them. Even the next song Is Love Forever? brings to mind the teaser trailer for A Serious Man, with bits chopped and looped, reverbed vocals yipping and cutting off mid-syllable, the whole thing sounds like a Spoon remix, but there's enough of the familiar Spoon gleaming through to outweigh the lack of any discernable hook.
The rest of the album drifts back toward traditional Spoon fare, but isn't without string flourishes and vocal distortions that try to fetter away the melodies that are clearly there. The rousing piano-drum driven Written in Reverse allows us finally exhale, relieved that Spoon are still the indie Iron Chefs, taking basic ingredients and crafting a delicious amuse-bouche of rock and roll.
Spoon's last album, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga seemed to have captured the bitterness and incredulity of being dumped, with fanged songs entitled Don't You Evah and Don't Make Me A Target that mince no words in tearing down the unfortunate subject. If Ga Ga is Spoon's break-up album, Transference finds them finally at peace with that chapter. The broken skips and loose ends here show that they aren't as they once were (they may never be), but there's the undeniable feeling that they are shedding a bit of their former selves. As Daniels sings on Got Nuffin, "got nothin' to lose but darkness and shadows/got nothin' to lose but bitterness and hang-ups."