Spoon Still Packing Houses, Keeping Curfew
Like Yo La Tengo, Smashing Pumpkins, and Pavement, Spoon is one of the big indie bands of the old vanguard that hasn’t lost street cred following moderate mainstream successes. After playing together for 17 years, you’ve probably heard Spoon, even if you haven’t listened to them. The band reached new levels of recognition with Girls Can Tell in 2001 and Kill the Moonlight a year later. Frontman Britt Daniel contributed heavily to the 2006 Will Ferrell vehicle Stranger Than Fiction and songs like “The Underdog”, “I Summon You,” “The Way We Get By,” and “I Turn My Camera On” have made appearances on all kinds of television shows, including noted indie music pusher Josh Schwartz’s The O.C. and Chuck, exposing it to new and younger audiences that need to be wooed to guarantee longevity of the Sonic Youth order—held up by loyal older fans and passionate new converts.
On their latest album, Transference, Spoon proves they no longer have nothing to prove. “Written in Reverse” showcases the same brazen recognition of unreciprocated feelings that Spoon has almost trademarked. Daniel sings about romantic fantasies dashed, but his words meander in playful, clever ways. “Goodnight Laura” is the most lyrically straightforward of all the tracks on the record, and one of the more earnest ones in their entire catalog. Daniel croons his lover to sleep, singing: “When you think your thoughts, be sure that they are sweet ones. Don’t you know, love? You’re alright.” Like “Japanese Cigarette Case,” off their last album, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, the track is minimalistic and intricately arranged, but this time there’s no lyrical code to crack and no building a teasing crescendo that explodes in unexpected places. It’s a ballad and in some ways riskier than the fast, small, “Is Love Forever?” because it’s cashmere—or at least distressed organic cotton—when we’ve come to expect leather.
Among the things that were yelled out during their show at the House of Blues last Friday —for a taste, type “Britt Daniel” in your search toolbar and note the most frequent Boolean combination—was a request for the band to play “Quincy Punk Episode,” a song off their second album, A Series of Sneaks. Daniel explained that the reason he wouldn’t play it is not because he couldn’t or didn’t want to but because he forgot how to. He asked drummer Jim Eno if he remembered the song (he did) and if he would be willing to play it alone (he would). He didn’t, but it was a telling moment—here was a band that had been playing so good for so long that their audience’s collective memory outlasted theirs.
Before the band played “Finer Feelings,” the last song in the encore, Daniel told the audience that he was going to stop playing because he had to keep a curfew. After the band packed up, he explained, they’d be turning the place into a disco. It’s a hard thing to keep up with the young.