Tuesday, 2 February 2010

REVIEW: Spoon - Transference

Spoon have long been established as indie rock darlings, stretching back to the widely heralded Girls Can Tell at the start of the century. Since then, the Austinites have been unafraid to visit varied stylistic destinations, travelling from the minimalism of Gimme Fiction to the offbeat pop of their last effort, 2007's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.

Listen to the full stream of Transference here.

Generally lauded on every release, the group has a licence to explore their sound that may well be the envy of other bands entrenched in specific styles. The highly anticipated Transference fuses many of their previous outings together nicely, tossing in the occasional surprise for good measure.

Opener Before Destruction is more relaxed than some of the songs on this album, making it a potentially misplaced tune. Those familiar with the band, though, will feel eased into Transference by this one, pensively strummed with Britt Daniel's reflective vocal alternating tones overhead. A more quirky offering follows in Is Love Forever? With a cryptic line in lyrics, save for the title, this one bounds along with a positivity that perhaps attempts to answer the question the song itself poses.

Mystery Zone hits many classic Spoon notes, exploring daily life in an abstract manner, powered by a confident bass line and understated yet sharp guitars. This is a warm, layered song that builds in a way that would fit nicely on Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. Who Makes Your Money slows things down to a dream-like crawl, with synths drifting in and out of the song and another probing bass rhythm pushing all the instruments up to the surface. As unassuming as the song is, it feels disconcertingly as though the band are seeking to get right inside our collective head in order to give it a thorough examination.

Lead single Written In Reverse is deservedly a centre piece and album highlight, what with the semi-threatening lyrics, stuttering instrumentation, and a vocal delivery ranging from a flu-ridden drawl to rasping yelp. It neatly wraps up all that makes Spoon more than just another indie-rock band, as well as maintaining the nack for a huge hook and pop-esque chorus.

After these highlights the momentum does begin to wane somewhat, with a little navel gazing on I Saw the Light dragging along too slowly without anything to hang ones hat on. Trouble Comes Running does kick Transference back into a high, punchy gear, however, clocking in at under 3 minutes but still cramming in many naggingly insistent lyrical couplets over the returning guitar hooks. Readily invigorated, a curve ball is thrown with the melancholy and quite beautiful piano-led ballad. Quite whether the reassuring final lyric of 'You're alright' is truthful or to spare someone pain lies at the heart of what makes this one another highlight.

The closing songs keep things flowing, with Got Nuffin being a particularly enjoyable, full sounding tune after the more stripped down fare that comes before it. Finally, Nobody Gets Me But You finshes us off by increasing the groove, inserting bizarre, distorted keyboard effects, and leaving us wondering if we could ever really hope to 'get' this band, with their uncertain lyrics and myriad approaches to their music.

All in all, Spoon have pulled another trick out of the bag in melding their many identities together and adding even more personality to Transference. We get the off kilter jams, which sometimes feel like they will fall over themselves only to be saved by the tight musicianship. We get minimal, reflective songs with nebulous lyrics to digest. We get unexpected, almost mainstream ballads that could easily appear in a romance film, yet lose none of their effect for having such commercial potential.

Most importantly, we get another deep and varied Spoon album to explore and share right at the start of the new decade. Tuck in.

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