Friday, January 22, 2010

The Spoon Dilemma

I've bought two tickets to see Spoon at the Aragon Ballroom in three months' time. I'm very excited about this, and, if you've seen Spoon play live before, you're excited for me. They're ferocious live, and put on a show I can best describe as "transcendent."

At any rate, my roommate Stephanie is going to accompany me to the show, and, as she's not very familiar with the Spoon cannon, I've been set with the task of creating a CD that adequately distills their essence down to a mere 12-15 tracks.

At face value, this is not a difficult task. Spoon are a great band, with a great catalogue, but I could easily choose for you a 12-track Best Of. It's the sequencing that's a bitch. We're dealing with a band known for their immaculately sequenced albums. Hell, Gimme Fiction is sequenced so well it even plays brilliantly in reverse order.

I imagine progress would be faster on this if I knew what song to start it with. Spoon albums are unique in that, once you've listened to them a few times, you can't imagine any of them starting with any other song. The heavier and darker tone of Gimme Fiction is slammed in place by "The Beast and Dragon, Adored," while the ragged glories of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga find no more immediate representative than "Don't Make Me a Target." "Everything Hits at Once," off of Girls Can Tell, sets the emotional tone for everything that follows. You get the idea. This is a band of near-terrifying studio acumen.

I think the best solution is to do it in chronological order. Because this is a band that progresses, and they do it very, very well. Sure, this means Telephono and A Series of Sneaks are going to get relatively overlooked, but, hey, when you keep writing great songs, your best of is inevitably going to ignore more than a few. Just ask John Prine.

Looking over it, let's skip Telephono altogether. They never play material from that anyway. If she wants more, she can find it. Let's open with

1. "Utilitarian"

from A Series of Sneaks. It's as great an opener as any. And it's less, well, "growy" than most Spoon music. You can appreciate the hook right away. Most Spoon music needs to marinate to grow appreciation. That's why this isn't a review of Transference; I need time. Next has to be Girls Can Tell opener

2. "Everything Hits at Once"

Intelligent, cool, sleek, it's the new Spoon, after their more raw beginnings. Which leads into the cover of

3. "Me and the Bean"

Mostly because I appreciate any chorus with a chorus devoid of words. That I've yet to write one myself is besides the point; I don't have a voice as emotive as Britt Daniels. The focused, heavy groove of

4. "The Fitted Shirt"

would be a nice way to round out this album's contributions, but my roommate is from Chicago, and so the next track has to be the home-town shout-out

5. "Chicago at Night"

Kill the Moonlight contributes

6. "The Way We Get By"

I know, I was surprised, too. But we needed the space.

7. "The Beast and Dragon, Adored"

is just a great song. So I'll throw that in there, along with

8. "I Turn My Camera On"

which is necessary for its groove.

9. "Sister Jack"

is a shoe-in, as it's the happiest thing you'll hear from a dour indie band this year, promise. Vampire Weekend get peppier, sure, but they don't normally sound as morose as Britt Daniels.

10. "I Summon You"

is probably the best song ever written about anything at any point. So it's a winner. Which brings us to Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, the masterpiece. We need to save some room for Transference on here, so let's keep it light. Leaves more to discover later, I suppose.

11. "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb"

Why? Because it's Motown filtered through Indie anal-retentive tendencies. Awesome.

12. "Don't You Evah"

rocks the groove. It's as tight and in-the-pocket as music gets, and it knows it, too. Next has to be

13. "The Underdog"

if for no reason other than it's the perfect summation of the Spoon ethos: The little guy is gonna tear you apart one day. He's just biding his time.

14. "Black Like Me"

is a bit of a surprise inclusion, but it's there because it's gorgeous, and everyone forgets about it. It's the perfect closer to a near-perfect album, and I'm a bit partial. This leaves only one song off the new album... hm... I haven't reviewed it yet, I don't have a full sense of what will stand up well on its own. There's a languishing beauty to "Out Go the Lights," but I think I have to go with, one more time, the off-kilter, snapped-in groove of

15. "Written in Reverse."

What a piano figure. Clumsy yet nuanced. Perfect.

Make this CD if you don't know Spoon well. I think it'll convert you to the wonders.

No comments: