A classic Spoon jam with a manic Photoshop tutorial? You can’t say the band doesn’t know their audience. I imagine boutique design studios all over the country cranking this jam during the interview sessions where they whiteboard out desired career paths and sip kombucha from wooden cups.
Spoon ain’t the one, the one to get played like a poop butt. See, they’re from the street so they know what’s up.
Wait wait, wrong song. As much as I’d love to hear Spoon cover N.W.A, this is an original and the real star of the show is Alex Fischel’s electric piano. Sometimes you forget that there are other people in the band besides Britt Daniel, but there are and “I Ain’t The One” is a good reminder. When Jim Eno’s drums kick in two solid minutes into the song, you’re like, “Oh yeah, rock and roll!”
They got around to making a video for the title track of their new album, Hot Thoughts, out now on Matador. Lots of footage from SXSW. “If you missed it you may now see it. If you were there you may now relive it.”
Daniel got the idea from a Japanese kid in Shibuya who hit on his girlfriend. “He was smoking a cigarette, and couldn’t really speak English, but was pointing to her teeth and saying her teeth were so sexy and bright,” Daniel says. “And I thought that was a pretty far out, maybe desperate but funny way of hitting on her.” So, Hot Thoughts are thoughts about sex, which is a topic Spoon has never really overtly covered so overtly in a song before.
“Your teeth shining so white / Light up this side street in Shibuya tonight.”
That interview also reveals that Spoon considered packing it in after “the rare misstep Transference in 2010.” I didn’t realize that album was considered a failure. I dug it.
They say you shouldn’t trust anyone who doesn’t like puppies or babies. That’s kinda how I feel about anyone who doesn’t love Spoon. I mean…what’s not to love? Soulful vocals and witty lyrics; smart, economical instrumentation; beats and rhythms that make you DANCE; all peppered with hoots, hollers, grunts and groans that let you know rock music is supposed to be visceral.
Full transparency: Jake Brown was not always on the Spoon train and I can tell you that there were several whispered conspiratorial conversations around the office keg. We considered executing the 25th Amendment until he started to come around. I am pleased to say the state of the GLONO union is now strong.
Hot Thoughts is Spoon’s ninth studio album and builds on the same blue print established way back on 2001’s Girls Can Tell. This is a band who is consistent, if not creatively challenging. Once they broke (albeit slightly) from the jagged corners of their first two albums, the mold was set and they’ve honed the product more than redesigned it. And I am totally down with that. It’s a wonder how consistent, and consistently good, Spoon is. Given how shitty things are elsewhere in this country it’s really nice to know we can count on a solid record from this band every 24 to 36 months.
One area of exploration I have enjoyed from these guys is their occasional dips into dance-y pop music. I think it started with 2005’s “I Turn My Camera On,” which is a staple of any indie kid’s dance mix. This year we have “Can I Sit Next To You” as an early contender for Summer Jam 2017. It’s the kinda song that will make middle-aged dudes pine for pool parties that don’t include swim diapers.
If you’re reading this then you probably already have the new album so I’m not going to sell it. But I’d love to open up a conversation in the comments about the elements of Spoon that make them our favorite band. Because there are common elements, some of which are noted above and some of which get turned into criticism for other bands. Why?
Like a lot of Spoon songs “Can I Sit Next To You” takes a few spins to reveal its mysteries. Simple and supple, groovy and woozy, each sound placed deliberately in the mix, this becomes the soundtrack to walking through crowded streets on a sunny day. “Gonna get kicks every night / no one’s holding me back / no one’s changing my mind.” Let’s go.
I had a very clear plan for Saturday. There’s a spot to the right side of the “PlayStation” stage (actually called the Petrillo Music Shell) that’s always been easy to worm your way into. You can get really close to the stage if you just slide right along the wall, so I had told my entire posse to meet there three songs into the XX‘s set. But once we made it inside, it was obvious this was not going to happen.
At three o’clock in the afternoon the entire north side of the park was filled to capacity. To make matters worse, the entrance from Columbus into the stage area was a parking lot of people. It should’ve been a walkway but nobody was moving. Everybody was just standing there, blocking the path, not moving. I’m assuming Against Me must not have any fans because there were at least 80,000 people crammed into the cement lot that surrounds the stage, packed tight as far back as the second set of light poles. If you’ve been to Grant Park, you know what I’m talking about, and you know how bad that must’ve sucked. It was worse.
The big story with this week’s sales data is the fact that the Hope For Haiti charity album is the first digital-exclusive set to top the Billboard 200. Billboard also points out that “as Hope for Haiti is sold through indie digital distributor INgrooves, it gives the Billboard 200 back-to-back independently distributed No. 1 albums, following Vampire Weekend‘s Contra last week.” So how about that? Hope for Haiti is the 13th “indie” album to top the chart.
And there’s even a legitimate indie debut this: Spoon‘s Transference (Merge). So along with Contra, that makes three independently distributed albums in the top ten. That’s gotta be a first, right?
1. “Hope For Haiti” – 171,000 (debut)
2. Susan Boyle – “I Dreamed a Dream” – 86,000 (up 12%; cume: 3,357,000)
3. Lady Gaga – “The Fame” – 62,000 (down 3%)
4. Spoon – “Transference” – 53,000 (debut)
5. “2010 Grammy Nominees” – 49,000 (debut)
6. Vampire Weekend – “Contra” – 43,000 (down 65%)
7. Alicia Keys – “The Element of Freedom” – 40,000 (down 16%)
8. Ke$ha – “Animal” – 35,000 (down 47%)
9. Black Eyed Peas – “The E.N.D.” – 35,000 (up 7%)
Totale’s Lost Classic review of Badfinger’s Straight Up has had me on an early 70s power pop rave up. In order to fulfill my need for lush melodies, sly guitar solos, and backbeat drums, I’ve compiled a playlist of the bands surrounding Badfinger’s legacy: Peter Ham’s Dream (re-read the heartbreaking story of the Badfinger front man on Wikipedia).
There’s naturally a gang of Badfinger on this mix. If you’re going to wear your influences on your sleeves then do it with vigor! Be proud and be true to their vision…and yours. While too many will dismiss Badfinger as a poor man’s Fab Four, I revel in their absolute and unflinching embrace of the Beatles‘ later-day sound. They were, after all, disciples of the Fabs so why not be true to that musical message? It’s that musical legacy, as translated by followers for decades to come, that this mix is celebrating.
In mixes like this I prefer to use a band as a point of reference; the point from which the musical personality is derived. Instead of the Beatles as the point in this case, I like the focus being once removed from the source. Bands like Sloan and Spoon are as much influenced by Badfinger (the second layer in the scheme) as they are the Beatles (the primary source). That’s the point. To me it’s just as valid to create new music that shares more of a sonic palette with your influences than not. How that influence is translated and communicated down through the various layers is what allows for the continuity of sound as well as originality in execution. Can you dig it?
The recently departed Jay Reatard summed it up so perfectly in this New York Times article from August, 2009 interview:
The whole concept for me behind pop music is to take your influences and filter them through yourself, and then they become something new. I’m not trying to move forward and create territory that hasn’t been mined before, I’m just trying to do my version of something that I like.