A double shot of Spoon...

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I can never just play one song from either of the first two Spoon records... So, the other day I played a double shot and it made me remember how excited I was when those albums first came out, and that I love them just as much nearly ten years later. Hailing from Austin, TX, here’s a little about one of my favorite bands!!

Britt Daniel has recently re-located to Portland, OR, which seems to be the new mecca for musicians. The ladies of Sleater-Kinney, along with Pavement frontman, Stephen Malkmus have called Portland home for some years now. And, more recently, Chris Walla, of Death Cab for Cutie, and Scott McCaughey of R.E.M., The Minus 5 and The Young Fresh Fellows have recently uprooted from Seattle to Portland.

I’ve been a Spoon fan for a very long time - since their first album, actually. The first 2 albums were blistering sonic punk rock attacks. I could not believe it when I first saw them live and realized Britt was playing on an acoustic guitar. I was hooked from the first song.

Many albums have followed since A Series of Sneaks and Telephono. They have all been stellar but none have ever quite reproduced the sound on these first two albums. Subsequent albums have had a more acoustic, even folky, sound, showing that Britt Daniel is a master songwriter and musician with a breadth of talent. He’s no one-trick pony. Let’s hope he keeps making music for many many years. Everything he produces is pure gold, in my opinion.

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Photo by Peter Simonite

Looking back almost 8 years, here are a few words that came to mind after listening to Spoon’s second album A Series of Sneaks, way back in 1998, when it was released. It’s worth noting that Elektra dropped them after the release of this album. Britt was very bitter about this move and even penned a song or two about it on a Saddle Creek single. I never understood that decision by the label. I thought the album was pure genius. I still listen to it on a regular basis and play tracks from it all the time on KEXP.

It’s tempting to say that songwriter, singer and guitarist Britt Daniel IS Spoon but that would diminish the indispensable role that drummer Jim Eno plays in this clever and talented alternative rock band from Austin, Texas. Spoon began as a 4-piece in 1993, but early on, the guitarist dropped out and, although they’re on their 4th bass player (Josh Zarbo), they’ve managed to put out a stellar collection of intense, raw and catchy songs on their collection of releases which includes 2 LPs, a couple of singles and an EP.

Their first LP, Telephono, was release on the much respected indie label Matador, home of some of Britt Daniel’s favorite bands and biggest influences, such as Pavement, Yo La Tengo and Guided by Voices which he has said is the greatest rock and roll band in the world. Other diverse influences, many if which can be heard in their music, include The Pixies, Nirvana, Wire, The Cure, Gang of Four, Joy Division, The Fall, Big Star, PJ Harvey, Julian Cope and Prince. Although Spoon was courted by major labels such as DGC, they selected Matador, in part, due to their impressive roster of artists but mostly because they were able to maintain complete artistic control.

The same is true of their deal with their new label, Elektra, for whom they have just produced a rock and roll masterpiece, A Series of Sneaks. A Series of Sneaks is a combination of short (30-90 seconds in some cases), fast, punkish songs, reminiscent of their first album and the longer, more complex, layered songs of their subsequent EP, Soft Effects. It’s a diverse collection from a songwriter with a gift for both lyrics and music. Daniel writes songs that make you want to sing along and leave you yearning for more when they end too soon. He’s talking through verses one minute and screeching the next.

In the blink of an eye, a gentle whisper is punctuated with his trademark yelp. Perhaps the quirkiest, and most surprising, thing about Daniel’s execution is the use of an acoustic guitar, whose fuzzy sound is enhanced beyond imagination when played through a super-distorted amp. Behind it all, Jim Enos’ technical proficiency keeps the driving rhythm just off kilter enough to make things interesting with his jerky time changes and energetic drumming. Bassist Zarbo, who has been with the band for about a year now, seems like a keeper, as evidenced by the tight, engaging set they played this past Sunday night at the Crocodile. My only complaint with the album (as with the show) is that it’s over too soon.

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One Comment

  1. Christina
    Posted May 10, 2006 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    We (Merge Records) will be reissuing Telephono and Soft Effects in July. Remastered! And with a video for “Not Turning Off” (track 2 on Telephono)!

    Can’t wait to send it to you!

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