Few bands work as well within relatively simple, sonic confines as Spoon. Compiling a conspicuous catalogue that rarely leans hard on window dressing, the band has always known what works. Drums, bass, guitar, and keys: these would be the basic building blocks if pop music had a periodic table of the elements. Of course, Spoon would not be relevant after nearly ten years without a little creative zest peppered in to their stunning formula. That originality has just never come at the expense of the song.
So when trumpets, saxophone, cello, a plethora of percussive extras, flamenco guitar, a Japanese koto, chamberlain, and bits of studio chatter pop in and out of their sixth studio try, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge), it might seem appropriate to suspect the band may have over did it a bit. Of course, these Texas Tunes men have spent a decade perfecting their precise attention to detail. And when a band has a clever pop song neatly tucked away for all occasions, creativity need not require over the top composition.
Those quasi cool undertones Spoon has always kept in their back pocket...creative nuances that have never made their songs just pop songs...are drawn at will over the course of Ga. All sneaky surf guitars, “Don’t Make Me a Target” is a fragmented, kickoff. An obvious plea to the powers that be, the song is, initially, Britt Daniel’s composed complaint. However, near its’ conclusion, he’s fierce and furious, cutting and snarling over rowdy, radio static guitar. It’s humid and hot as hell; the kind of song that sounds best when sweat is pouring down your face. It’s also a steadier version of Gimme Fiction’s excellent opener “The Beast and Dragon, Adored”. On the other hand, the pounding pianos of “The Ghost of You Lingers” plays more reminiscent of the minimalist, fragmented numbers of Kill the Moonlight (Think “Small Stakes"). Pre-packaged with anxiety and tension, Daniel’s vocals, like a proper apparition, come creeping out of nearly every corner. And where the song plays as if it should be building towards something, sweet relief never comes. Like the temporary sizzle of a splash of water over hot coals, heat and fervor always wins.
For an album clocking in at just over 36 minutes, Ga always cycles through at an alarming pace. Giddy numbers like the bass driven romp of “Don’t You Evah”, curiously titled “Eddie’s Ragga”, and street-wise groover “My Little Japanese Cigarette Case” are so well knit with plump keys, rhythmic tambourine, and Daniel-a-go-go vocals, it’s going to be hard not to keep the album sitting on repeat for the next few months. But it is the album’s high water tracks that mark the evolution of the band. On previous albums, Spoon really only dabbled in soulful, rhythm and blues when it came to Britt’s vocals. But on Ga the rest of the band finally follows his lead. With a well composed brass section and “Mrs. Robinson” acoustic guitar, the band hits doo-wop hard on the Jon Brion produced, “The Underdog”. And if you find “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” sounding a bit like “Build Me Up Butter Cup”, it’s because it’s the closest to Motown the band has ever trekked.
Spoon never fails to impress. Initially simple and straightforward, the intimately conceived details of Daniel and Jim Eno’s albums always reveal themselves over time. Ga is certainly no exception. But consistency is one thing; creating an album that stands out from the bunch is another. By uniting tidy songwriting and studio educed creativity in such an industrious way, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga certainly gets the nod over its’ predecessors. - David Pitz