Ten years is a long time, but in the case of Spoon—the Texas rock band whose few musical hallmarks are ones of taste and consistency—it doesn’t sound like much has changed. Merge Records, Spoon’s label since 2001, has reissued the band’s 2007 album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga in a deluxe anniversary double-vinyl package, following their similar treatment of 2005’s Gimme Fiction two years ago. But apart from Ga’s biggest hit, “The Underdog,” there’s sonically very little to anchor the record to any era, pre-Obama or otherwise, and revisiting it now doesn’t newly unveil any wild truths. Rather, it sounds very much like an album Spoon could have put out at any point in the past decade.
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga came after Spoon has delivered a trio of masterpieces: the elegant Girls Can Tell, the minimalist Kill the Moonlight, and the (relatively) maximalist Gimme Fiction. This put Spoon in the strange position of having little left to prove artistically, and they reacted by honing Ga down to an almost too-concise collection of 10 songs, some of which are very good indeed, and others that evaporate as soon as you hear them. The best ones are frontloaded: “Don’t Make Me a Target” is a choppy, tempo-shifting tour de force that displays Spoon’s greatest strength—sounding simultaneously urgent and laidback—in four minutes. “The Ghost of You Lingers” is even better, its staccato piano stabs blunted into abstract clusters of notes, as songwriter/vocalist Britt Daniel’s voice wanders in and out of a smeary backdrop. And “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” is a perfect Motown miniature, its vibes and saxophones adding a heavenly air of AM-radio sublimity.
The rest of the album is more or less forgettable—which is a little surprising, considering how great it all sounds. Tracks like “Rhthm and Soul” and “Finer Feelings” have appealingly watertight production, but leave almost nothing imprinted on the listener’s brain. There are a couple of exceptions: Mid-tempo album closer “Black Like Me” has real staying power, and of course there’s “The Underdog,” a defining track of the iPod Nano era, for better or worse. With its quick-change chord progression strummed on acoustic guitars, a marching-band fanfare worthy of the best homecoming game, and some damn near irresistible handclaps, it’s the sort of song I needed to hear 1,000 times in a row and then not listen to for the next 10 years. For the record, those handclaps still sound great.
The reissue of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga comes with Get Nice!, originally released as a bonus EP with first CD pressings of the album. It runs a mere 23 minutes, and the entire thing is duplicated on both sides of the second disc—kind of a waste of vinyl, especially when there are contemporaneous B-sides (like the excellent “All I Got Is Me”) that aren’t included here at all. But Get Nice! is a worthwhile listen nevertheless, featuring song fragments, unfinished ideas, deconstructed mixes, and a handful of demos stitched together into an effective sound collage. The best of these are abstract explorations of sound and tone, such as “Be Still My Servant” and the closing “Curfew Tolls,” although with some spit polish, the punky “1975” could’ve been a proper album track, and “Mean Mad Margaret” is a fun throwaway in the vein of Side Two of Abbey Road.
This edition of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is not as impressive as Merge’s great Gimme Fiction reissue from two years back (which included extensive liner notes, a fold-out poster, and bonus download tracks). But the vinyl in this relatively barebones presentation is exemplary, and the sketchpad that is Get Nice! gives the package some weight that Ga’s wispier tracks don’t deliver on their own. In fact, one wonders what the result would have been if some of the experiments on Get Nice! had been properly integrated into the album the first time around. In any case, you’ll likely feel the same way about Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga as you did 10 years ago, which is kind of nice, considering how different the rest of the world is. In other words, it holds up very well, whether you have or not.