Spoon — Inside Out
The first time I heard Spoon was at Amoeba off Sunset; earlier in the afternoon I remember because traffic is never good off the Blvd, but sometimes you can catch the lazy hours between the lunch rush and end-of-workday traffic. But even then, between the road construction, tourists, and your instantaneously-calculated-and-factored Luck Character Stat, your happiest possibility lay in an expectation of La Brea Tar Pits speed movement.
But traffic was gracious to me that day, I remember. The whole day seemed serendipitous on reflection.
The parking situation is strange at Amoeba because you can (theoretically) park above ground within a little fenced off area to the side or park underground in one of two entrances located on either side but it’s all very confusing because the side entrances aren’t even connected to the same underground garage?
After passing through a claustrophobia-inducing hallway (might be all the band & gig stickers on the walls), while your eyes readjust to the blend of fluorescent and ultraviolet, the clarity for the difficult trek slowly develops into focus.
I know what you’re thinking (idiomatically, not literally): “For an article about a band, you’re taking up some good space with set descriptions when really I’m here for the music.” Well, Responsible Reader Concerned With Subject Relevance, don’t worry it all factors in.
Amoeba is not unlike Spoon in this story, as both have unique names that are fairly unrelated to their function, quirky and idiosyncratic characteristics that initially can be turn-offs for unfamiliarity but quickly grow to become loveable traits.
In other words, they both share personality.
There isn’t a way that anyone could confuse Amoeba with any other record store, or Spoon with any other band.
The difficult part about describing the tonal qualities of Britt Daniel’s voice is that the words that come to mind to describe the sound itself accurately have bad connotations (and even sometimes denotations): strained, nasal, coarse.
Words are limiting here, as with most music reviews I suppose, because ultimately writing anything feels futile to the first-hand experience of the listen. But maybe that’s the art of it.
Imagine finely-grained sandpaper, a texture that is rough yet smooth simultaneously. You can feel the character of each grain of sand delicately cut against your skin, yet on the whole the signals are simultaneously smooth and almost numbing, as your body bundles the chemical shots from your nerve endings into an average to placate and prevent a flood of stimulation.
That day in 2002 at Amoeba I heard “Stay, Don’t Go” off their album Kill the Moonlight. Beatboxing would describe in technicalities the rhythm section of that song, yet the overloaded term that implicates a genre of music doesn’t apply here.
Perhaps the most defining trait is that it’s not just drums that dictate or contribute to the overall rhythms (and often syncopation), Spoon uses the piano, vocals, all parts of the song really, to drive momentum in the pieces. The ethereal ballad that is their latest single — “Inside Out” — sparkles throughout with a fluid rhythm and that waxes and wanes like our moon pulls on our oceans.
It’s the kind of song you want to hear parsed out in a good pair of headphones.
At some point, trying to capture the immense detail of any given song of such an eclectic group like Spoon grows tiresome for both the reader & the writer. If a picture is worth 1000 words, the seconds in these songs are certainly worth much more than that, and yet while I feel I’ve only scratched the surface, any more describing would only push the portrait envelope into the hype territory — also a tiresome place to be in.
One final note however — Spoon’s latest single brings hope and optimism to the music industry for me; for as jaded and dramatic the landscape has become for both producers and artists, there shines still the work of those whose love of the craft and vision for art can pierce through the pressure to sell volume at $0.99 a download.
Listen and let me know what you think.