Under Review: Spoon – Transference

Here’s a question for you: how many chances do you give a band to blow you away before you resign to the fact that they’re really not worth the time you’ve given them?  If the band in question is Spoon, then my answer would be ‘too many.’  I should’ve known back when I first heard “The Way We Get By” and “My Mathematical Mind,” two nearly identical tracks that were on two different albums.  The barrelhouse piano, Britt Daniel’s scratchy vocals and scratchier guitar, each element worked well together, and the band knew it.  Now, two albums after “My Mathematical Mind,” Spoon has brought another set of songs with barrelhouse pianos, scratchy vocals and scratchier guitars, and tries to play it as though I wouldn’t notice.  Don’t get me wrong, Spoon is an okay band, but that’s all I can see them being if Transference is any indication of where they’re going to continue to be.  The one word that most Spoon reviews use to describe the band and their albums is “consistent.”  I’m pretty sure those reviewers are confusing “consistent” with “stagnant.”  Consistency does not entail making the same album over and over again.  Just look at The White Stripes, another popular band of the indie persuasion whose output has indeed been consistent while also being adventurous.  Like its predecessors, Transference has a few definite standouts, but they’re still incredibly hesitant to break away from the Spoon mold.  Those that do, such as slower songs like “Who Makes Your Money” and “Goodnight Laura,” indicate that Daniel has it in him to step outside his own box, but is afraid he might get locked out if he leaves it entirely.  The upbeat songs sound like could have been on any one of Spoon’s last four or five albums, resulting in tunes that sound familiar but hardly fresh.  In fact, one of the late-album songs, “Got Nuffin,” was released on its own EP last summer.  Though that’s a very classy move for a band to make, it’s a shame that the one up-tempo song that truly makes an impression has been kicking around for just over half a year.  All this is not to say that Spoon haven’t the potential to make a future emergence with stronger ideas, but they’ve tested my patience enough to leave me wondering if I’ll care at all once they do.

~ by E. on January 20, 2010.

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