Spoon – Transference


Girls can tell there’s a bit of killing the moonlight goin on in Brooklyn, Portland and of course, Austin. Whether these gals are gonna be around for the listening party is not up to them. Or, Feel free to feel like you’ve heard this before but you’re gonna hear it again, I hope you feel something, Sweetheart, anything. What? No, it’s not déjÃ¥ vu— it’s called transference.

Released, 01.19.2010 | Merge Records

Spoon, the brainchild of band percussionist / master-mind engineer & producer, Jim Eno, and songwriter / producer, Britt Daniel, have hit an indie-pop duo stride they can call their own sound. It didn’t happen overnight. It’s taken about 16 years to craft what they’ve got to give. As with any great musical formula, songs are it. If you got great songs, you got everything to fall on regardless of the recording device, a boombox or a studio. Spoon has used both effectively along the way for the sake of a great song on daring rock records rooted in simplicity, great melodies, steady snare cracks and man, the list goes on.

Eno and Daniel have a real creative partnership void of personal power struggles and circle formations unlike other a’Merican bands who have let us down along their way, for an artistic better or worse. It’s obvious by their collective output they work well together by now. Daniel’s songs and Eno’s production have been and are continuing to leave a large footprint on indie pop music, rock n’ roll. production, engineering, everything a great artistic partnership can be. They are it. Maybe too cool for rock n’ roll and not cool enough for the art snobs. Either way, whatever they’re drinking, pass it this way. Wait, thats’s it; they’re not drinking the water, they’re the ones filling the cup with somethin else familiar and new. You get a little bit o’ The Kinks, the Zombies, Darryl Hall (and Oates), pick any late 70s or early 80s songwriter, really. All attitude, smarts and a punk strut to pound it on home. Spoon seems very aware of their past now, their own and that of their influences on Transference.

It could be said they’ve traveled a linear path in their recordings the past decade and a half plus to get to Transference. Intentionally, maybe, or as designed. Spoon has crafted the perfect combination of art and commerce into a beautiful, creative career. Their last record title simply says so, Ga ga ga ga ga. Tongue-in-the-mouth- not the cheek, pop-art-adult-make-baby, brilliance— and that’s just the title. If the first few listens of 2010’s Transference spark’s a feeling of familiarity, maybe a let down- it’s supposed to. Got Nuffin, the 2009 advance single from the record, gives it away. Daniel openly admits, Got nothing to lose but bitterness and patterns… Adding to it, darkness and shadows. This record is the sound of a great a’Merican partnership searching, traveling, recording whatever they got and where ever while standing at the creative cross roads caught thinking out loud and proudly. Every artist could learn a thing or two from these two on ideas, simplicity, delivery, knockout or no?

The intro of Before Destruction perfectly opens up the newest release- a steady hi-hat meets a steady kick drum, a double tracked split organ, the lonely naked acoustic guitar— lofi, a demo too good to throw away- it’s there, track one, for a reason. This is Spoon, there is a formula they abide to before a bit of hi-jinx gloss and production tricks kicks in for good measures.

What is the Spoon Formula® again, explain? Steady percussion, lo-fi delivery, catchy as all hell melodies and intelligent engineering interspersed with cool-as-a-cat lyrics delivered phonetically perfect on subject matters familiar to anyone with a heart, brain or both. The imperfections (and triumphs) of lovin’, losin’, travelin’ and people we all know, have met, or should be prepared to meet and be disgusted or amused with. This record’s formula is different though, it’s sneaky in its percussive delivery. The record as a whole on the first few listens feels and sounds provoked, empty, angry, intentional, distracted, a feeling you’ve been here or felt that- hence, some form of transference. A masterful attempt to detour themselves from the past few records without losing it all and calling bluffs a bluff with one shot. The title alone gives it away if anyone’s ever felt a bit of transference occurring in their own lives, their own craft, their own relationships with people and the world around ourselves.

After the 88th listen (according to the iTune’s Library ‘Play Count’ on 03.09.2010) and at least another 3 dozen plus listens in my car driving around trying to get this record outta my head, Transference is a monster of a little indie rock record. It defies pop rules on duplicity while traveling a parallel path designed from their past recordings and succeeding at something sneaky, exciting, creepy and still catchy, funky and fresh. The mix of the record itself deserves it’s own statement — an angry, anxious and exciting sound that rarely relaxes on past merits yet manages to take perfectly timed breaks for a bit of phonetic optimism, clarity and delivery. Mr. Deceptive and Mr. Brilliant, which one is which? Jim Eno and Brit Daniel should hi-5 each other on this one because Satan, the Gods of Rock, God’s Angels, The Los Angeles Angels, whoever-whatever (yawn) should all be havin a meal together at our expense and laughter while this plays in the background.

Where were we? Some ex-girlfriend, call her Heather / Whispers to me, ‘Is love forever?’ Daniel simply replies, Have I even felt it ever? / What’s the object? A bit jaded, a bit snarky, a bit honest, track two, Is Love Forever? Yes, even with objects and a’Merican bands that have let us down in the past decade, Spoon has proven in the long run with this record they are Larry Holmes to Wilco’s Gerry Cooney. You didn’t know this was a boxing match? We’re gettin’ there, soon.

A whole lotta rhythm and smooth melancholy kicks in with The Mystery Zone. Raga tonations fused with Daniel’s vocal attitude and raw delivery, Your cover was blown, you were there but you weren’t. In the mystery zone. We’ve all known these types of people. Doors never close, it’s the fresh air fiend, Daniel sings. Yeah, those doors never close on this record. They’re exploding with new ideas and formations for attack.

Who Makes Your Money is the sexiest indie pop song you’re gonna hear this year. Justin Timberlake and Timbaland should be dreaming of a way to blow the cool calm off this song. Movin on to a pop knockout combo.

Daniel’s frosty disgust shows up perfectly placed by track five. A word bomb vomit of sorts, Written in Reverse. A skilled, burned vocal delivery partnered with nasty, angular guitar lines skronked on and exploding between repeated piano keys and drums played like a child and his friends. A perfect rock song droppin into the steady beat intro of I Saw The Light. The finest 5:31 sat through 88 times at home and another three dozen plus in the car. It’s the sound of positivity manipulated to appear as a crowd negatively cheering on the bloody defeat of an opponent. A towering arena anthem in a perfect world, the sound of love manipulated to sound loud, proud in it’s delivery just to fool you and others into enjoying this sound more than you want to. Raise that fist— most of you won’t.

Around the 1:14 mark I raise a hand in front of me, fingers folded and palm closed, pulsating it like a metronome. I hold it there triumphantly like a music nerd should. I Saw the Light is a jolt of happiness you know will end, like a man or woman burned too many times before by lying scumbags and heart-strung offenders— yet for a brief moment, happiness, love ensues. The song is cruel in it’s delivery based on one important life-like fact, it will end at some point and you don’t want it to. It builds like a manic boxer who knows victory is there for the taking, the moment owned- ‘one more punch, just one more, wait, one more, don’t knock em out yet, keep punching, feels too good, crowd is clappin, yellin, smiles are risin high.’ The band piles on the rhythm and lyrical declarations of clarity right up to the 2:17 mark. Like a good boxer, a good person without the last word needed to be said, the sons of b*tches back out and force Mr. Daniel to take a breath. Gather in the corner, team meeting, a change of plans just to keep the emotion going, who cares about the knockout?

This is about craft and delivery now- f*ck the crowd.

New beats, a new song and dance, man. An awesome bassline hops in at the 3:25 mark to couple up with the piano and oh hi, there you are guitar— it just builds and moves and swerves and grooves and f*ck it man- goin for the smooooooth knockout, hard edit, gotta eat, gotta nap, done. No words, all actions. I Saw the Light is a triumph. 5:32 of the best 5:32 I’m going to have over and over for the rest of my life. Thank you, boys.

The rest of the record deserves the same amount of attention as the 5:32 just reviewed but chances are you didn’t read most of this article because you’re a majority, an a’Merican, a cow, a herd like follower raised to raise others just like you. A contributing member or offender of the global population control problem, life, death, war, religion— anything created to organize in masses you know, is disgusting. Yawn. Back to you, reading this far and Spoon; Are you are first in line for a shot to see Danica Patrick in a tight suit or simply just to watch her crash into a wall? Do you speed towards a red light as well as speed read toward a quicker answer? Do you like a larger meal for less and quality labor for the cost of nuffin? The amount of text in this monologue alone should have warned you which side you fall on ahead of time.

If you have sped-read to this point, warning, Transference deserves a listener’s patience in full not by buying iTunes singles instead of fully produced balls-out records like this one. Having said that, here’s the paradox I’m offering; Transference is amazing so go buy I Saw the Light over at iTunes right now if you don’t believe me. Let’s cut to an end here, there’s another 5 songs to talk about and it’s worth your loving or loathing ways. Transference is some sexy a*s shit and anyone who disagrees is a liar or just too broke to buy their own copy. The latter is understandable and forgivable in times like these.

Ah, sh*t moms, I can’t end it on that note. Is Spoon’s Transference a shot gun blast to a hi-fi future loaded on a lo-fi past? Yeah, it feels like it, it sounds like it, the canvas is beautiful. It’s a masterfully written/recorded/edited studio rock record by an impressionistic American band still perfecting old ways and pushing new strokes of the brush with each release. As far as the metaphoric, listening party Mr. Eno and Daniel are hosting with each new record I mentioned at the beginning of this long ride, this listener can’t wait to hear where they’re heading towards next— or where they’re already at.

AW | andywhorehall.com | 03.09.2010

Spoon - TransferenceAndy Whorehall

3 comments on "Spoon – Transference"

  1. gsmellyfarts on

    Great review of a great record. Write more.

  2. Pingback: Best of 2010 Sock Monkey Sound Staff Picks | Sock Monkey Sound

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