No Slack, Motherfucker

The indie near-lifers of Spoon have come to reside on the disillusioned cloud of oncoming middle age. Kill The Moonlight, their fourth full-length, contemplates its darkest lining. Spoon didn't inherit this surly stance from former Matador label-mates or from the Austin heritage that ensures their familiarity with overeducated dreamers (1990s variety). They know from experience, having traversed the path of irrational exuberance (signed by an unwitting major in the aftermath of alt . . . ) and falling off the cliff ( . . . only to be dropped four months after their Elektra debut's release). But theirs wasn't the typical sellout-failure story. Spoon never approached critical mass to warrant corporate adulation, or bought into the generation's "we ain't got no function" motto. As late as '98's Series of Sneaks, the last truly rocking album the trio recorded, they were still convinced they'd inherit the earth. The market proved them wrong.

So they recorded an acerbic seven-inch skewering their A&R man, then a classic album focusing their songwriting and solidifying their post-Pavement sonics. Last year's Merge-released Girls Can Tell was a comeback that SoundScanned an indie-healthy 25K, and spent time indicting the straight world through the prism of the band's experience. An American Wire playing Zeppelin tunes, they were nervy, discordant and smarty-pants-petulant as fuck, spewing "oh yeah"s that betrayed them as burnt but still cocky romantics. Spoon may not have gotten the credit cards, but they got the girls, had art on their side, and remained innocent.

From the get-go, Kill the Moonlight implies that Spoon's relationship with the golden ring (definition open) remains complicated. Sure, they must know plenty of slack motherfucker faithful, but it's hard not to identify Brit Daniel and Jim Eno as the apocalypse-mongers in the 1-2 openers "Small Stakes" and "That's The Way We Get By." Both songs are grad-student soliloquies about going nowhere, reinforced by nervous music more post-punk music-hall than rock—especially "Get By," whose Eggo Johanson stride piano and arranged fingersnaps recall the rebellious call-to-arms of West Side Story hooligans. (Much of Moonlight seems a millennial plaint to Officer Krupke, or a Breakfast Club for dotcom crashers.)

Details

Spoon
Kill the Moonlight
Merge

Related Stories

More About

Like Springsteen's early-career freedom rides, Daniel's new songs are jammed with broken anti-heroes who have real names on their souls' tombstones. There's ambitious Carole, going for it hard without a clue as to what "it" is; pugilist "Jonathon Fisk," who's always got the narrator's back but is spiraling down his own fight club; and withering wallflower Kay, who "grew up without making a sound" and doesn't know how to let out a good scream or find a good lay. It's a Mike Leigh level of depression. And the arrangements, referencing indie-rock more than participating in it, pile on heft to the small-life tragedies: Matt Brown's sax toughens up Spoon's welterweight ranking, while Johanson's piano gives it roots, rag, and bonus rhythm.

The survivor's empathy becomes the band's faith. Over the length of Moonlight's glow, Daniel paints his course less as righteous bohemian defiance than as, simply, living in peace with oneself. Amidst the album's only power chords, he ponders throwing Jonathon Fisk a lifeline (just because); later, he begs loser Kay to come on out, as a wistful "Gimme Shelter" sway shadows the tale's uncertain conclusion. Best of all, in the folksy major-key epilogue "Vittorio E"—a drug-free raft-ride recalling earlier closing chapters like "Huck and Jim" and "Tomorrow Never Knows"—Daniel applies the lessons of that Buddhist philosophy course he once half-heartedly paid attention to. "I took a river, and the river was long/It goes on," he intones: self-realization set to a piano, a 12-string and a drone, wrapped in a pop mandala that should be the symbol of the psychic constitution, mojo working toward a brighter land.

 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
 

Concert Calendar

  • April
  • Wed
    23
  • Thu
    24
  • Fri
    25
  • Sat
    26
  • Sun
    27
  • Mon
    28
  • Tue
    29
New York Event Tickets
Loading...