Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Best CDs of 2000-2004 / # 5

Spoon / Kill The Moonlight / 2002
Originally uploaded by seinspahr.


Austin, Texas trio Spoon is one of my favorite bands and this record's probably their best (2001's Girls Can Tell and 2005's Gimme Fiction are both excellent as well). Lead singer/guitarist/keyboardist Britt Daniel has a knack for writing incredibly taut and economical pop masterpieces, fitting hook after hook in the span of 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Each song on Kill The Moonlight is amazingly well crafted and intelligent, a batch of songs that still sound pretty fresh after 3 years of heavy listening on my part.

The biggest strength of Spoon, and specifically Kill The Moonlight, is the manner in which the band approaches the arrangements for the songs; i.e. how they present them. All 12 of these songs would be effective if merely strummed on a guitar and sung, but Spoon's unique approach rises above the norm and makes for a extraordinary listening experience. It seems the band credo is more "what can I NOT play" rather than the overused "how much can I play." Much of Kill The Moonlight is full of empty spaces; it's obvious the band tries many different ideas for the songs before landing the perfect format.

The opener, Small Stakes, carries the lines "small stakes give you the blues / but you don't feel taken / don't think you've been used / cause it's alright Friday night to Sunday / it feels alright keeps your mind on the page" and "me and my friends / sell ourselves short / but feel very well" to a minimal keyboard riff and staccato drumming. The message of the song is delivered with minimum fuss, making it much more effective. The biggest hit on the album, The Way We Get By, is the biggest groove oriented song on Kill The Moonlight, with only piano, vocals, and a drum/bass line that's impossible not to shake your head to. Something To Look Forward To is delivered in just over 2 minutes, with the verse/chorus "Your Mistakes, Your Merciless Eye / Your Chicago Manual Of Style / It Only's Got To Go Just As Far As We Let It Go / So Carole Let Me Know / So Many Things We Could Say / So Many Things We Could Let Get Out / But You Stay In Instead / Some Things Are Best Left Unsaid / Gimme Something To Look Forward To."

One of the biggest selling points of Kill The Moonlight is its rhythm and original style, seen in tracks like Stay Don't Go, based upon a human beat box by Britt Daniel, and Paper Tiger, which takes 4 or 5 seemingly unrelated parts and pulls them together; it takes a band with real skill not only to write these arrangements but to pull them off as sounding natural and not gimmicky. Other tracks, such as All The Pretty Girls Go To The City and closer Vittorio E use minimal accompaniment to relay the song to maximum effect.

My favorite song is Don't Let It Get You Down, done Beatles style with the drums and bass coming out of one channel and guitars and keys coming out of the other. The 12 string electric is used sparingly but perfectly, and the acoustic/bass/drums groove is hard to deny. The piano has a haunting echo, similar to Lennon's early solo work, and Britt's voice has never sounded better, with the lyric, "kay made it to where most never been / fixed up outside and broke within / she always said goodnight
knowing the wrong from right / but on the way the top / they showed her things she never thought / and left her down in the dumps / all day and all of the night." Everything in this song is expertly placed and is the perfect example of what makes this album so great; Spoon found a true middle ground between experimentation, originality, and simple pop hooks that take simple but effective songs to the next level.

Kill The Moonlight has remained a staple of mine and while I love their other records and can't comment yet on Gimme Fiction (as it just was released today), I feel this one with be one of those albums I play my kids in 20 years to show them how great, vibrant music really did exist in this era of rampant blood sucking commercialism and the practice of pandering to the lowest common denominator.


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