Monday, May 16, 2005

Spoon / "Gimme Fiction" / 7.9

People will like “Gimme Fiction” and I can’t blame them. It is a very nice 4/4 rock record but I hear the voice of a devils advocate screaming to get out. Reviewer Eric Carr likes the record and before I really get into it, I do too. Would I call it “wildly diverse”? Umm, no. Will I agree with the 7.9 rating? Yes but barely.

The first track sets the tempo for what basically the entire record will follow. Neither fast nor slow one can bob their head along to it comfortably. This middle ground is retread song after song making for a very non-edge of your seat kind of listening experience overall. (There are brief exceptions but not many.) “The Beast and Dragon, Adored” begins with maybe one of the coolest opening lyrics ever (the title of the song) but it also features the most haunting modern day rendition of a John Lennon song around. The piano and production value help to drive this point home but Britt Daniel sounds so much like J.L. to me that its almost spooky. Gratefully what snaps me out of this ghostly visit is the noisy deconstructed guitar solo which skronks and farts like a Gibson with gas. I love the idea of the anti-solo but it reappears on so many other tracks that it loses it clever appeal by song 6 or side B for you LP owners.

Moving onto the third track “ I Turn my Camera On” I can see how Pitchfork likens the falsetto vocals to Prince or later Stoned but I also hear one hell of an ode to the Bee Gees. The beat remains predictable, the guitar farts return but at least the vocals dare to try something different. With back up vocals by Archers of Loaf / Crooked Fingers front man Eric Bachman I wonder if this surprise hit will spawn a rebirth of rock bands going disco. God help us all if this is the case.

“My Mathematical Mind”, “ The Delicate Place” and “Sister Jack” manage to separate themselves from each other in small ways musically but the real diversity comes with the nicely spaced dynamic erosion of their instrumentation. These moments offer a naked listen to confident pop melodies that stand proudly on their own. These audio skeletons allow you to practically peer through a song and makes for some captivating music in turn.

The second half of “Gimme Fiction” stars a fantastic fuzzy organ; features a kalimba, a xylophone and the return of the piano / strings but perhaps the most daring track is “Was it You?”. Imagine lo-fi Looper (whatever happened to that band?) mashed into a lowrider hip hop beat and there you have what would have been called the weirdest song on the record if they hadn’t dabbled in dance just a few tracks earlier.( A remix mp3 file can’t be far behind and I wouldn’t be shocked if its been done crazy kids with the computers and song writing software.)

I loved “ They Never Got You” but only until I realized there is an uncanny chord progression that mirrors Led Zep’s Kashmir. (Heck yeah I love Kashmir so in turn why wouldn't I fancy this tiny tribute?!?) I never made the Zep connection with Spoon before but by the last track I can’t seem to shake this idea. The placement of strings, the vocal timing… its Lennon getting the Led out and that’s not such a bad combo. In fact it makes for a pretty good new Spoon record. Not a GREAT one but certainly a good one.

PS: Welcome back Merge Records. If Sub Pop won comeback label of year in 2004 I vote Merge for 2005.