If last year seemed a bit underwhelming for music—rock in particular—the blame can be easily heaped upon misplaced hope for that one great indie rock record. Tapes ‘n’ Tapes, Band of Horses, Peter Bjorn and John—they all made for strong debuts. Yo La Tengo, Sonic Youth, Built to Spill—their own efforts proved the old guard wasn’t ready to turn over just yet. Yet there were countless misfires, from Islands to Oh No! Oh My! to Cold War Kids to Bishop Allen, who all had buzz but rarely the songs to back it up. But a year without a Funeral or Apologies to the Queen Mary to fuzzbox fetishists would certainly be a letdown. What 2006 could have really used is Spoon‘s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is 2007’s strongest rock record. It’s loaded with lots of guitars, some meaty hooks, and classic, memorable songwriting, bolstered with an extremely high degree of fun. Though the band teased it with something of a red herring. Before the release of Ga (I’m not going to type the whole thing for the remainder; so that’ll have to do), Spoon previewed the album with a promotional video for “The Ghost of You Lingers,” an eerie, percussion-less piano exercise, which is best encapsulated by its own title. It was ghostly, hollow, and altogether bizarre, but exciting. Hardly the next logical step from “I Turn My Camera On,” “Ghost” was an intriguing tease, a disorienting journey through unending tunnels of effects and melody with no easily foreseeable conclusion in sight. Alas, in all its atmospheric perfection, it was just that—a tease. The remaining nine songs on the album are classic Spoon, each one carrying with it an unending arsenal of grooves.
The opening track, “Don’t Make Me A Target,” has a similar feel to “The Beast and Dragon, Adored,” its descending riff slinking in with mystery and suspense. Britt Daniel aims his barbs at warmongering political leaders (dig the line about “nuclear dicks with their dialect drawls“), but when he howls the song’s title at the chorus, man, he damn well means it. And from there, clavinets and dirty, distorted guitars break down into a raging, grinding jam that carries the song to its conclusion. One song in, and Spoon already capture the grit and muscle of rock ‘n’ roll at its best.
Spoon further cement their reputation as ‘merchants of soul’ on Ga with tracks like the Motown-inspired “You Got Yr Cherry Bomb” and the Jon Brion produced “The Underdog.” The latter is the first single, a vibrant blast of horns propelling its “The Boys Are Back in Town”-like rhythm. Fun and carefree though the song may seem, it reads more like a warning to the powerful, which echoes the anti-Bush sentiment of “Don’t Make Me A Target”: “you got no time for the messenger/ you got no regard for the thing that you don’t understand/ you got no fear of the underdog/ that’s why you will not survive.” “Cherry Bomb,” meanwhile, bounces along with plenty of reverb in tow, a clanging tambourine propelling the super-catchy grooves.
Plenty of surprises arise throughout the album, the little details making each song its own unique celebration. “My Little Japanese Cigarette Case” integrates some surprising koto riffs, though the Spanish guitar solo blends seamlessly in spite of any apparent cultural clashing. “Rhythm & Soul” is vaguely reminiscent of “The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine,” though a bit simpler, slimmed to a very concise and economic pop song, the bright burst of organ during the chorus adding that much more sweetness to its tightly wound package. “Finer Feelings” layers on voice samples from DJ Mikey Dread and various other bits of found sound, not unlike The Clash at their most maximalist, all without becoming overbearing and choking the mesmerizing, free-flowing grooves. Most surprising of all is “Don’t You Evah,” one of the best songs alongside “Finer Feelings” and “Cherry Bomb,” which, as it turns out, is a cover of an unreleased song by friends and fellow indie rockers The Natural History.
Six albums into their career, Spoon have refined their sound and gotten every detail just right. Never mind that they were able to accomplish such a feat several times already with albums like Girls Can Tell and Kill The Moonlight. That they’re still able to craft such an impeccable, sophisticated album out of simple rock music and make it all sound new again is a feat that few other artists can boast.
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.