Rated | Alphabetical
| Highest Rated 2006
Spoon: Gimme Fiction
For Britt Daniel and Jim Eno, the creative duo behind Spoon’s albums
(touring bassist Josh Zarbo and pianist Eric Harvey appear on one track),
it’s all about finding the right vibe.
Kill the Moonlight,
with its stripped-bare rhythms, broken down into basic elements and then
reconfigured to sound incredibly expansive, proved Daniel and Eno weren’t
content to rehash the appealing but less adventurous indie rock of Spoon’s
2001 breakthrough, Girls Can Tell. Moonlight’s hotly
anticipated successor, Gimme Fiction, validates the assessment that
Spoon is one of the boldest groups currently operating. Less arresting but
more unified than Kill the Moonlight, Fiction finds Daniel and
Eno exploring the tension between a tight rhythm section and chaotic
production techniques (from messy guitar parts to bizarre samples). And that provides
an edge to the music that not only makes for an attention-grabbing
collection, but also rewards repeated listens.
The core trio of Daniel, Eno and co-producer Mike McCarthy recorded more
than half of Fiction’s eleven tracks, although other collaborators
make significant contributions. Tosca Strings members Ames Asbell on viola,
and cellist Sara Nelson support two cuts (the shuffling “The Two Sides of
Monsieur Valentine” and prickly closer “Merchants of Soul”); Eric Bachmann
of Crooked Fingers sings background vocals on the superb, anxious funk
number “I Turn My Camera On;” John Painter plays trumpet, trombone and
saxophone on the rolling, piano-driven highpoint “My Mathematical Mind.”
Fragments of work done during aborted recording sessions by producers John
Vanderslice and Scott Solter survive on the moody, meandering "Was It You?"
But it’s obvious that Daniel and Eno ultimately discovered the right tone
for the album working with McCarthy. If nothing else, there will be a slew
of also-ran tracks sitting in a vault somewhere just begging for B-side or
deluxe reissue release down the road. (Indeed, initial pressings of
Fiction come with a four-track bonus disc of outtakes and demos.) Given
Fiction's bumpy recording history, the fact that the album holds
together so tightly is a credit to the disciplined consistency with which
Eno and Daniel approached the material.
Daniel pens an ode to the creative process and his chosen profession on the
bold, Beatle-esque opener “The Beast and Dragon, Adored,” claiming “When you
don't feel it, it shows / They tear out your soul / And when you believe
they call it rock and roll.” And it’s that often torturous cycle of creating
something others can appreciate and then having to top oneself that
permeates the musical textures and needles through the emotional fabric of
Fiction. From the opening verse of “I Summon You” (“Remember the
weight of the world / It's a sound that we used to buy / On cassette and
45”) to “The Infinite Pet” -- which serves as an amusingly abstract
complement to Girls' “The Fitted Shirt” (“I never knew the coat check
was danger / ’Til I met this one and took it inside”) -- Fiction
indirectly comments on the nature of the music business and reveals just how
far the band has progressed over the past few years.
On the dynamic “They Never Got You,” Daniel sings “Did you repeat yourself /
'Cause no one would hear /And just say it again / 'Cause they never got you
and you never got them.” With Gimme Fiction, Spoon buttresses the
idea that a band can retain its identity without being repetitious. Which
undoubtedly bodes well for any and all future releases.
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