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It's Only Rock And Roll, But It's Not: A Look At Spoon's 'Slay On Cue' Catalogue Reissue

Updated: Oct 3, 2020

Prominent, attention-grabbing bands come and go. That’s not to say that they weren’t able, more that their appeal fades or sadly the hype dies down. Spoon belongs in an entirely different category altogether. With a long journey ahead, the outfit made its entry into the industry, forming in Texas during the early 90s. And although their reputation in the UK may not be as behemoth as other rock names, the consistency and quality they produce are phenomenal, earning them the utmost respect by those people who ought to know. At the heart of the group is Britt Daniel and Jim Eno, with other sailors joining and leaving the ship along the way.

An announcement to stoke up the fires of any music aficionado is the reissue of rare or vintage vinyl and CDs. In a staggered release, Spoons’ Slay On Cue catalogue is now widely available worldwide for the first time. The reissues include eight records, with some having not been around for years and others not even on sale in the first place.

Firstly, July 2020 offered LP Telephono (96): a debut, armed with understated, raw vibrations that developed as the band found their groove. It’s pretty straight forward and not eminently melodic in places. Daniel’s voice is already stand out from these baby days, along with his renowned quirk of turning the air blue, and Jim’s dynamic drums have a garage DIY youthfulness to them. Song All The Negatives Have Been Destroyed emits pulsating energy, as it purveys that dreadful sense of confusement at the end of a relationship: “If you want, you can never leave, and if you want, you can let her go.”

In the same month, there was the sharing of Soft Effects (96); Soft Effects by name and Soft Effects, kind of, by nature, especially found in Waiting For The Kid To Come Out and a poppy outpouring in Loss Leaders. Mountain Of Sound displays the guitar in bursts of sound, which would find us again down the line. There is an amiable feel to it and a slight turn of a corner in a directional sense, but Get Out The State is the thunderous cloud overhead.

We arrive in August now with A Series Of Sneaks (98) for another dose of Low-Fi Indie Rock, which required time and resonation before people held value; it felt like the final hurrah before Spoon firmly found their full Spooness. With plenty of angles exuded, Metal Detektor is a gratifying gentle thing, where someone is pushed as far as the humanly can be; they are desperate: “Just going to break the bank of Texas and walk right out and make the sound of getting kicked when you're down.

We have reached the album that managed to get many hooked on Spoon: Girls Can Tell (01), receiving high praise across the board from bands and critics alike. Recognising a more conventional structure and glossier production, it is traditional rock, but the voice, drums, riffs, and art tendencies make the title of ‘traditional’ impossible. Pain most apparent, opener Everything Hurts At Once, utilises the mellotron and vibraphone and sounds good for it, as does canorous Anything You Want.

Last to come in this summer month was another preferred, much loved of many, Kill The Moonlight (02): a smart bundle of everything that had come before working together completely but, as the group do, making something unconventional. With its constant drum stick beat, favourite Paper Tiger is quite strange and doesn’t have a great deal to it, yet it is an astounding song, such wizardry. All The Pretty Girls Go To The City is an angsty concept that shares that Nick Cave wild, clunky approach to the piano.

To September now and the last three releases in the collection, commencing with Gimmie Fiction (05), marking the occasion of the band entering the Billboard 200 for the first time. Elements were re-added to create more fullness to their sound, with the guitar at the forefront at times, ending in an album that takes trust and attention but grows on you with familiarity. Sexy feels and funk are found in the dancy falsetto maintaining I Turn My Camera On, inspired by the purple Prince himself. Last orders at a desolate, smoke-filled whisky bar sum up the atmosphere of The Beast And The Dragon, Adored, with that Jack White style loose and lush guitar playing.

Not all it is cracked up to be, mainstream is not always best, but if ever there was a record that nearly launched Spoon into that territory, it is Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (07). Full of shades and an introspective look, for instance, the overlapping, ghoulish vocals and powerful keys for The Ghost Of You Lingers represent someone struggling badly, but the person they want to help them is not there anymore: "The ghost of you lingers, It lingers, And I always think about it, Oh, would you calm me down?” sits with RnB closer, the orchestral Black Like Me addressing longing.

Lastly, we are at our final part of this puzzle: Transference (10). Emotional songwriting is delivered in an offering to turn the cogs and invite thought. Upbeat The Mystery Zone is a joy with gradual rising to the loud, exciting keys, with spot-on production and a sharp, blunt end. It should be noted that some of the tracks retained their rawness and demo state, shown most in Goodnight Laura: a coarse, genuine piano track that is the sweetest thing.

And that is that. It took a while for me to revisit all eight works of art, but I have to say that it was bliss. But it isn't the end; there were two more albums after these, They Want My Soul and Hot Thoughts, and hopefully more to follow. When we had the luxury of gigs, the group were part of the historic USA run with Beck and Cage The Elephant last year, performing in picturesque amphitheatres enchanting the audience and reminding us that rock isn’t dead. Their understated artistry is curious; to go from Paper Town to Black Like Me say, and still sound like the same band is where they have the upper hand. The Strokes are the most mainstream underground band around, but Spoon is also in that league of fine gentleman. They are always the same; they are always different. I know it's only rock and roll, yet with Spoon, it is just not.

Article by Beverley Knight

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