Spooning on a Sunday Night

Hot freaks, girls with perfect indie style, and T-shirt’d dudes with that 70’s hair – it was a raveup at Chicago’s Abbey Pub, with Spoon as the main attraction. “Thanks for coming out on a Sunday night like this,” main Spoonman Britt Daniel said. “This is a great place.” Daniel was referring to the packed house and gorgeous new sound system at The Abbey. But he could have been summarizing the twisting road that led he and his band to the stage Sunday night.

Spoon began in 1996, on Matador, with Telephono. The record drew dizzy comparisons to The Pixies and Wire, with tight, controlled bursts of guitar surrounding Daniel’s gritty corkscrew of a voice. Tours with Guided By Voices, Apples In Stereo, and Archers of Loaf followed, and soon Spoon was officially on the indie rock table. But then a man came to the stage one night. He smoked a big cigar and drove a Cadillac car, and you know the rest. Spoon signed a deal with Elektra Records, and released the powerful, slick A Series Of Sneaks. Four months later Elektra and A & R man Ron Lafitte stuck a fork in Spoon, and kicked them to the curb.

Getting worked over by the majors manifested itself in a kiss-off EP (featuring the snarky “Lafitte Don’t Fail Me Now” B-side), and some “Why me?” soul searching in the lyrics of Girls Can Tell, Spoon’s next proper LP. But Tell was released on Merge, a successful independent label without need of A & R reps in snakeskin boots. To wit, main Merge man Mac MacCaughan simply called Spoon’s Daniel and asked to put the record out. Which proves the point about indie rock. After all the posturing about whose glasses are geekier, whose pants are tighter, or whose clear vinyl 7″ is the rarest, the network of labels, clubs, bands, and fans that support the entire process do so because good music deserves to be heard, not dropped.

And so back to the Abbey Pub on a Sunday night in Chicago. Configured as a quartet with Daniel on guitar and vocals, supported by keys, bass, and drums, Spoon performed with a fluid, easygoing air that suggested they’re happy with where they are today. Not letting technical difficulties with the synthesizer bother him, Daniel led the group through an efficient set that showcased Spoon’s economy in songwriting. In their world, songs never go on for too long; indeed, Spoon songs often don’t even require trappings like a bridge or gratuitous solos. Built around Daniel’s heartsick growl and wry, sometimes harrowing lyrics, the songs dwell on simple, repeated guitar and keyboard lines. Comparisons to Wire or even The Pixies are still valid, but Spoon also incorporates Jonathan Richman, Elvis Costello, and on the new Kill The Moonlight‘s “All The Pretty Girls Go To The City” – I swear – the keyboard line from Hall & Oates’ “Family Man.” All influences aside, Spoon’s music is full of the promise and swagger that makes independent music truly something to believe in.


Opening for Spoon at The Abbey was San Franciscan John Vanderslice. Seen most recently on tour with The Mountain Goats, Vanderslice writes hooky, well-mannered pop music that wouldn’t be out of place on Slumberland Records, the little Berkeley, CA label that could. With bleary-eyed Bowieisms winking here and there in his lyrics, and awesome, crunchy tone coming from his Telecaster (maybe a Tele copy?), Vanderslice and his pals kept the crowd thoroughly entertained. Life And Death Of An American Fourtracker, his new LP, is out now on Barsuk Records.


25 thoughts on “Spooning on a Sunday Night”

  1. The new Spoon album is so cool I can hardly believe it – ranks with the Wilco disc for my best of the year (also, best of the century so far). It grooves, it comes on as minimal but the more you listen the more you find. I don’t know if it’s even being distributed up here in Canada – I had a hell of a time trying to find it. My first Spoon, now I have to try and find Girls Can Tell (or more likely, pay down some of my credit card to order it online).

    Just had to rant about how much thrill this record is giving me.

  2. Sunday night’s show was great, far better than Spoon’s Double Door outing last year. Whoever was running sound at that Double Door show was a complete idiot. This time around the band sounded right, despite the aforementioned keyboard difficulties.

    They played as many or more songs from “Girls Can Tell” as from “Kill The Moonlight” (telling, or merely a logistical issue?) and played four out of five numbers from the all-meat-no-filler “Soft Effects” EP. They also played a Wire song called “Lowdown.”

    PS … Vanderslice was playing a ’69 Fender Thinline Telecaster Reissue.

  3. Spoon aside, Vanderslice is damn good himself – I think I’ll have to pick up that “Life And Death Of An American Fourtracker”.

    Also, gotta love the fact that Vanderslice has 3 different resolutions of each mp3 on his site. Good to see artists and record companies that get it.

  4. Grieves:

    Thanks for the info on Vanderslice’s guitar. That’s exactly the kind of interaction we’re looking for on this site.


    Vanderslice also runs TinyTown Studios in SanFran, so he’s a total gearhead besides being a great musician. Probably figures into the alternate MP3s thing.

    And re: Spoon as some sort of next big thing, sorry folks, but in my book they’ve been great since ’96. If Spoon ever does happen to blow up to VMA proportions, then we’ll cover that, too.

    GloNo isn’t about the next big thing. We’re about observing everything.

  5. Sorry Johnny, I’m just commenting on the, as of late, tendency of GloNo to stick with a standard format. Rants about industry and articles about bands that are starting to blow up. When I first started reading this site, I was turned on to some excellent underground music. Come on you guys, tell us about we didn’t already know was great…

  6. Since when is Spoon the Next Big Thing?

    “Girls Can Tell” had much more of a buzz about it than “Kill The Moonlight.” Cripes, some people are still slagging them for “Telephono.”

  7. Prop, yeah look at GLONO’s first month and all the rare, underground music we were turning people on to:


    I see a whole lot of Steely Dan, Britney Spears, Weezer, Jennifer Lopez, Gram Parsons, and the Osmonds. Hmmm. But rest assured that as soon as we uncover some cool, underground bands, we’ll be sure to let you know about it…

  8. Wow, I got you guys out in droves in defense of Johnny, eh? It’s a good article about a great band but I’m giving you guys credit for turning me on to some great music. I know some of you have heard some hot, new stuff or some rare old material that hasn’t reached most of the music world’s ears. Let’s hear about it…

    Yeah, I have been a lazy ass about writing about the NW over here at this point but rest assured I’ll get down to it. My two prior GloNo articles put a lot of women at my command but no food on the table…

  9. We defend Johnny to the death (or his sister will cry).

    We have some cool stuff in the works actually. Maybe some bands you’ve heard of, maybe not, but it’s all shit we care about.

    Always good to see that people will keep us in check though. We didn’t know you cared…

  10. An Interpol article would be cool…I tried to see them in Chicago a couple weeks ago, but damn, they were sold out…also caused me to miss the Dirtbombs/Detroit Cobras show that night…good review of Spoon…missed that one too unfortunatelu…


    Vanderslice is the proprietor of Tiny Telephone studios in SanFrancisco; not TinyTown as I had previously said.


  12. Hey Hank,

    I see you’re in Hamilton. I picked up “Kill The Moonlight” here in Toronto. Mind you, it was at a very cool indie store called Soundscapes (whose counter guy I proudly stumped earlier this year when I asked if they had any bellwether in stock, and he hadn’t heard of them. They’ve since remedied that.) Actually, my “Moonlight” disc has a little sticker on the back that says “Made In Canada”, so I can only surmise that there’s some sort of manufacturing/distribution deal up here.

    Gonna see Spoon/Vanderslice tonight at the Horseshoe. Woo!

  13. Quick — someone better come up with a moniker for Interpol and the other bands that will follow and the type of music they are playing. It would be nice to determine this before MTV gets ahold of them so we can say we were first…

    Let’s see – We had “Nu Metal” with Limp Bizkit and Korn, next came “Nu Garage” for MTV daahlings White Stripes, et al — now what? I’m thinking “Nu Manchester”. Since Interpol is basically apeing the early- to mid-80s Manchester scene (quite well I add – great album) for the folks that missed it the first time; I say we go with that.

  14. I love the review with the Hall and Oates comparison! If someone asks me what spoon sounds like (I only have Girls Can Tell and Moonlight) I start off with Hall and Oates….I am glad I am not the only one….I guess its just some of the vocals and keys…?

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