w/the Good Life, John Vanderslice
The Crocodile, 441-5611, Tues March 6.
Sonic Boom Records, 547-BOOM, Tues March 6.
Yours truly could easily go deep and sad listening to the new Spoon record on a lyrical level, if he wasn't so busy affecting this cocky rock-star strut that he performs alone in his living room each time he puts the CD in. But, then, that's what distinguishes Spoon from your run-of-the-mill guitar rock. These are songs by frontman Britt Daniel, a big-hearted guy from Austin, Texas, who loves the sound of his guitar and his own voice. Who punctuates a great rock and roll lyric like, "Do you remember when you were small/How everybody would seem so tall/I am your shadow in the dark/I have your blood inside my heart," with a sunny, slightly discordant, early-'90s guitar line in the vein of what Pavement and so many of the excellent Matador bands were doing at the time (Spoon being one of them).
But somehow with Spoon, it's always sounded more happy and genuine. Or maybe just more accessible. The Stranger ran a CD review of the new record last week, in which yours truly, feeling a bit guilty as a Spoon fan, likened Daniel's voice to Gavin Rossdale from Bush. Regardless, it's a far more compelling voice, from a superior singer/ songwriter--one whose band has been around for nearly 10 years at this point, going from a promising start on Matador to a brief stint on Elektra Records, upon which Spoon released an excellent record, A Series of Sneaks, which got very little promotion from said label. Spoon, in fact, was dropped by Elektra within four short months. The band went on to release a CD single, "The Agony of Laffitte," an achy composition charged against Spoon's Elektra A&R man Ron Laffitte. Though full of vitriol, it was a Spoon single, so it remained emotionally layered, informed by a genuine sense of love and depth: "It's like I knew two of you man/The one before and after we shook hands/Taking the calls but in all forgetting what's been said." Daniel's voice is soaked in heartbreak, sounding like a real musician who has lost his music and a chunk of his heart concurrently, which is what makes the single so voyeuristically listenable.
"The Agony of Laffitte," while likely serving its cathartic purposes for Spoon, went on to marry fans to the notion of Spoon being a band that never received its due. A band that displayed so much promise on Matador ("Don't Buy the Realistic" is perhaps the most exciting, sexually charged contribution to What's up Matador, the 1997 compilation that includes such '90s underground giants as Guided by Voices, Pavement, and Liz Phair). But the band is doing just fine. Spoon has since been picked up by a tiny little label by the name of Merge--perhaps you've heard of it?--and has put out the great, sexy new record Girls Can Tell. It may or may not propel the band into the realm of major-label or Top 40 commercial success, but it's one of the most addictive and enjoyable records to come out within the last year or so, and if the kids don't buy it up, then they're missing out on some great music.
What music lovers have in Spoon is an unabashedly listenable three-piece that sounds very much a product of its Austin, Texas base. Jim Eno is a straightforward drummer who plays nothing fancy-pantsed or avant garde, while Josh Zarbo is a smart bass player with a sharp ear for subtle dissonance, the kind that keeps tension without allowing it to be overarching. Which leaves most of the show to Daniel, whose voice is thick and round in its compulsion for expression. Everything Daniel touches is catchy. The guitar lines are relatively clean. They always sound referential to something--especially when the melodies occasionally veer into a single phrase of spy or surf music, elements that cohere succinctly, but generate enough of a pleasant surprise to keep the listener on his or her toes, engaged and excited. The new record even gets a bit vibey, lending a baroque '60s feel to a few of the songs. But it's only dressing. Spoon is Spoon, and that's the way it's supposed to be.
It's going to be a good show, one that would be perfect for summer: a long, hot night in a crowd of happy, dapper boys and girls amped for dancing and falling in love to the sound of some good clean rock and roll. What we'll really have is a winterized Seattle crowd at the Crocodile--static, attentive, impressed but in no mood to sweat like the kids do for Spoon down in Austin. Which is just fine. There's always the living room and the 10 spot on the volume button of the CD player for dancing.