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CD Reviews:  Spoon: Kill the Moonlight

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Talk about persistence in the face of overwhelming indifference. By all rights, Spoon should have thrown in the towel by now. After releasing a couple of albums and EPs that drew raves and comparisons to bands that start with the letter 'P' (namely, Pavement and the Pixies), they released an ill-fated major label album and, as quickly as they had "arrived," retreated to the underground. 

But they were not finished, not by a long shot. Singer and main songwriter Britt Daniels circled the wagons and in 2001 released Girls Can Tell, one of the best records from last year that no one heard. Girls was an unapologetic tribute to what was good about new wave, with punchy pogo-ish drum lines, Graham Parker-esque organs and very little fuss. (We're talking new wave rock, like the Pretenders, not new wave pop, like Soft Cell.) Kill The Moonlight, their new album, is anything but the same old same old. It sounds like the next evolutionary step to post-punk, had it not been completely abandoned all those years ago. It's also not as hook-based as its predecessor, but rather more focused on dynamics and atmosphere.

The staccato keyboard that propels leadoff track "Small Stakes" serves as a good bridge between the last album and this one. With Daniels' vocals awash in arena echo and a frantic tambourine ratcheting things up an extra notch, the song teases the listener by hinting at a powerful finale that never comes, but in the end isn't needed. "Stay Don't Go" uses a human beat box drum riff for its rhythm section, with vocals handled by drummer Jim Eno (or possibly not; the credits don't say, but it's definitely not Daniels), whose clean tenor adds nice contrast to Daniels' raspy baritone. "Jonathon Fisk" is the kind of song that Elastica would cover if they were still together; it sounds like a lost classic from the late-1970s UK punk scene. "Someone Something" bears a passing resemblance to mid-1970s Bowie, and "You Gotta Feel It" is a brief, horn-filled blast that recalls, of all things, Split Enz on a crazy day. 

At the time in their career where they should by all rights start running out of gas, Spoon seems to finally be hitting their stride. Their sound and attitude may hint at a yearning for bygone days, but they're anything but a nostalgia act. In fact, Spoon has never sounded more excited about the future in their lives than they do now. They're just going about it in an old fashioned way.

David Medsker

Other Spoon reviews:
Girls Can Tell (2001)
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