Gimme Fiction Label: Merge
There’s no better feeling in the world of music than to “discover” a band after they have already released a few albums. Granted, opportunistic roadies in charge of back stage access would argue it’s not the best feeling in the world music, but it’s a good one nonetheless. Over the last several years, I have experienced this veritable rush of excitement as I explored the back catalogs of CAKE, Modest Mouse, the White Stripes, Rilo Kiley, Ween and Wilco, just to name a few. Well, with the release of their fifth album, Gimme Fiction, the complex indie rock of Spoon can be added to that prestigious list.
The band first appeared on my music radar (via a mix from “The O.C.”) with the addictive single, “The Way We Get By,” from 2002’s Kill The Moonlight, which is one of those consistent rock albums that has one great song surrounded by a lot of good ones. On Gimme Fiction, there’s nothing quite as radio-friendly as that breakthrough single, but there is a lot (and I mean a lot) of solid music. But it’s the band’s method of songwriting that is especially impressive. While many rock bands focus on mid to high frequency guitar or keyboard hooks, Spoon does most of their interesting work in the low frequencies, throwing out compelling bass lines like they’re going out of style. Take the first track, “The Beast and Dragon, Adored.” Not only is it the most cryptically titled song of 2005, it contains a driving, repeating guitar riff supplemented periodically by some pounding piano. Throw in frontman Britt Daniel’s cathartic vocals and you have one of the most intense and beautiful songs of the year. “My Mathematical Mind” is another gem, but this time the band uses piano in place of the bass guitar, and the keys repeat themselves in such a way that it is almost impossible to focus on anything else in the track for any length of time.
But Spoon is no one-trick pony. “Turn My Camera On,” with its catchy undercurrent set against a Daniel falsetto, is maybe the best disco-era rock song that the Rolling Stones never wrote. Like most releases, the first half of the disc is more accessible than the second, but don’t overlook “They Never Got You,” which features another subtly divine bass line and such an intricate composition that it’s obvious that the band focuses on the details and takes a lot of pride in its work. While Spoon may never write their “Float On” or “Fell in Love with a Girl,” they are still a band worth inspection, and Gimme Fiction serves as a nice first taste for the uninitiated.