Plenty of bands are drawing
inspiration from the fertile post-punk period of the late '70s and early
'80s, but most take their cue from groove-oriented groups such as Joy
Division, the Cure and Gang of Four. Austin, Texas-based Spoon traces its
roots to a different sound from those times, forwarding the melodic art-punk
of the Buzz-cocks and the evocative but minimalist sounds of Wire.
On its last two albums --
2002's "Kill the Moonlight" and the new "Gimme Fiction," both on Merge --
guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Britt Daniel has honed the art of
creating moody but consistently tuneful vignettes, emphasizing small but
dramatic moments such as a rattling tambourine, an insistent piano or a
fractured guitar line, much as Wire did. Spoon has covered that band's
"Lowdown," and the title of its 1999 album, "A Series of Sneaks," seemed to
be a nod to the Wire EP "A Serious of Snakes."
"Believe it or not, it
wasn't," Daniel said recently. "It was something my girlfriend at the time
came up with. I was always playing tricks on her, and she said my whole life
was a series of sneaks. Maybe because I had heard it before, it stuck with
me. But that is honestly how I came up with it."
While Daniel grants the
Wire influence, he said he gets tired of comparisons: "When someone in 2005
asks me about the Pixies, I really think, as much as I love the Pixies, that
we are making records that don't sound much like them at all." And indeed,
Spoon is charting a path unlike any other on the current rock scene.
9 p.m. Saturday
3145 N. Sheffield
Tickets: $18 in
advance, $20 day of the show (18-over show)
Daniel has a flair for
crafting direct and powerful hooks that are paired with oblique and
elliptical lyrics, creating a sense of mystery in Spoon's best songs and
providing new discoveries for the listener with every spin. The band's
leader has said that most of his songs are inspired by the emotions of
particular events in his life, but he takes an impressionistic approach when
writing the lyrics.
"I'd rather do that than
hit people over the head with it," Daniel said. "My favorite movies are the
ones where you have to use a little bit of brain power and figure out what
is going on. To me, 'I Summon You' [from the new disc] was kind of a
heartfelt song about feeling pretty lonely and broken up, but I didn't want
to get to the chorus and say, 'I feel lonely and broken up.' It feels much
more natural and cooler to say something that goes against the grain but
still expresses what happened."
"The law enforcement's
impressed you've survived to this age / Strapped-up soldiers / They'll lock
you in a cage without goodbye / For a nickel bribe," Daniel sings.
"'I Summon You' has this
legalese that, to me, is funny," the songwriter said. "I don't know if
anyone else sees that, but to me, it was a way of softening the blow."
Spoon's songs evolve in
the studio as Daniel draws input from producer Mike McCarthy and his fellow
musicians, especially his key collaborator, drummer Jim Eno.
"With this record, most
of the songs were basically me and Jim recording, and we'd bring in
different people for different songs," Daniel said.
"There was a lyric in
'The Delicate Place' that Jim really didn't like, and I was kind of on the
fence about it, so we eventually took it out. He's a tough cookie; he
definitely challenges me. He challenges the way I thought the song was going
to sound. At the end of 'The Way We Get By' [from 'Kill the Moonlight'], Jim
made that song. Initially, I was thinking of this Kinks-esque pop song,
which would've been fine, but he made it this half-time thing that made it
way more rock 'n' roll, a lot less bouncy and a lot more enduring.
"Sometimes when he wants
to send a song in a different direction, I might feel like it's not working
in that way," Daniel concluded. "It's difficult but probably more rewarding
in the end."
Working at its home
studio in Austin, Spoon entered the recording process with the goal of
making "Gimme Fiction" more of a groove record, but the process took the
album in another direction entirely.
"Originally, I remember
writing an e-mail to Mike McCarthy and Jim the drummer telling them that I
wanted the whole record to be dance music," Daniel said. "That clearly
didn't happen. I remember thinking that when we started 'Kill the
Moonlight,' I wanted it to be a guitar record. Just having those ideas
doesn't often translate once you start working.
"I think when I wrote
that e-mail [about 'Gimme Fiction'], I wanted a whole record of 'Rock the
Casbah' [by the Clash]. I just love that song and can never get enough of
it. But that is certainly not how the record turned out -- I think it is
more of a rock record than the last one. More guitars and more ... I don't
know how to describe it other than 'more rock.'"
REASONS TO LIVE
Also on the
Wire tip, Minneapolis-based Words On Music (www.words-on-music.com)
has released a striking tribute, compiling 19 diverse bands from Germany,
Spain, England, Canada and the U.S. producing radically different but
consistently interesting covers of Wire's 1978 single, "Outdoor Miner." In
fact, this is the second such project Wire has inspired -- following the
1998 tribute disc "Dugga Dugga Dugga," which found 14 bands all covering
Wire's "Drill'-- a striking testament to these art-punks' enduring
lyrics about an insect called the serpentine miner chewing up the greenery
of the English countryside, "Outdoor Miner" is a most unlikely pop song, but
its layered melodies and insistent rhythm make it a classic nonetheless.
Among the standout
covers on "A Houseguest's Wish: Translations of Wire's 'Outdoor Miner'" are
a shoegazer/Britpop version by the late, lamented Lush, a stark acoustic
rendition by Adam Franklin (former leader of Swervedriver) and a swirling
ambient take from Flying Saucer Attack. But the fun is really in hearing how
one basic text can be subject to 19 completely different readings.
Alas, the word from Wire
itself -- which rocked with a vengeance on 2003's furious "Send"-- is that
guitarist Bruce Gilbert has quit the group, leaving its current status
uncertain. Of course, the band has already broken up, reunited, broken up
again and come together once more since its original formation in London in
1976, so fans shouldn't necessarily despair quite yet.