Spoon, from Austin, Texas, makes some sexy music. Sleek riffs and naked instrumentation come together to create a smooth mood that would not be out of place in many lounges in America. This does not mean that Spoon should ever be mistaken for the occasional lounge-pop cheese that can often overwhelm such places. No, Spoon plays lounge music in Greenwich Village, after hours.
Their latest effort, Gimme Fiction, continues their path of excellence by building upon 2002's fantastic Kill the Moonlight. The album starts with "The Beast and Dragon, Adored" and immediately all the best elements of Spoon are retooled into their finest sound to date. Britt Daniels' faux British vocals are perfectly meted out to accompany the sonic noodling of the guitar, bass and drums into the explosive chorus. Daniels' lyrics are a volatile, if clandestine, attack on the record industry, which bleeds into the remarkably catchy and chugging chorus:
"I got a feeling/It don't come cheap/I got a feeling/Oh, and then it got to me/It took its time working into my soul/I got to believe they come for rock and roll."
The dark-edged, string-soaked "The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine" is an unnerving song that is otherwise definably pop. Meanwhile, first single "I Turn My Camera On" is a cool, beat-snapping funk stomp that finds Daniels' falsetto taking center stage.
"I turn my camera on/I cut my fingers on the way/I turn my feelings off/It made me untouchable for life."
The highlights on the album are constant and instantly gratifying. The piano-echo of "My Mathematical Mind" stands as a highlight, as does the soulful doo-wop of "The Infinite Pet." However, the centerpiece and ultimate highlight of the album is "Sister Jack" a slightly skewered by-the-numbers rocker. The band propels forward on fuzzed guitar riffs and tambourine shakes, while Daniels squeezes emotion out of his casually throaty calls.
"I was on the outside/I was looking in/I was in a drop-D metal band/We called Requiem/And I can't relax/With my knees on the ground and a stick in my back/Sister Jack."
As the perfect comedown to the soaring heights reached by "Sister Jack," Spoon offers "I Summon You," a nice acoustic amble. The song is the closest thing to a ballad on the album. However, between syncopated drum shifts and tambourine hits, the song verges more on sonic experimentation than the usual, bland acoustic guitar lullabies of fellow acts. By the song's end, Daniels' affects some nice moaning that when mixed with the electronic rumblings, adds a welcome weight to the lyrics.
"Yeah you got the weight of the world coming down like a mother's eye/And all that you can/All that you can give is a cold goodbye."
Problems with Gimme Fiction are rare. Perhaps the biggest complaint is the casualness Spoon appears to put into their albums. Noises, strings and electronics occasionally come and go without having a substantial impact on the songs. Elsewhere, talking and barked instructions in the background give a nice, live feeling, but become tiresome.
However, if Kill the Moonlight was Spoon's OK Computer, Gimme Fiction is their Kid A. Wonderful, experimental and fresh, the album is one of the finest of the year. And that is one sexy accomplishment.