Spoon has been one of those bands I’ve always admired, but never seemed necessary. If I hear them on the radio, or at a coffee shop, or a store, or even on an airliner (see below), I’ll nod my head in satisfaction, and not feel the need to immediately change the channel. But I can’t remember the last time I felt the need to put a Spoon record on, or had an overwhelming desire to hear one of their songs. To give you an idea how little real estate Spoon occupies, I had no idea they had released two (count ’em, two!) albums since 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga
So you would be perfectly reasonable to ask what the hell was I doing at Apogee Studios Tuesday night for their KCRW-promoted performance? Short answer: I was invited. Longer version: Well, for all the above, they are still a decent band, more than decent, actually, and my curiosity was piqued. And I was glad I went.
The Spoon on display Tuesday was more warm-blooded than the band I’d seen in the past. My issue with them was always that they were too battened down; a tad too cool, a bit overly manicured. Their songs sounded stretched just enough so you can feel the strain, but never so much that there was a chance of the seams tearing. The recordings existed in a hermetically sealed vacuum, perfect and unruffled. And while Britt Daniel’s voice had a pleasant graininess that could take on shades of John Lennon, he sounded like a man sorely in need of a laxative.
Maybe he’s just loosened up, or maybe as he’s matured, he’s started worrying about his prostate, but Tuesday night Daniel sounded like a weight had been evacuated. He was almost frisky, and he worked himself into a sweat.
The songs are still bitter and angular—the titles from the new album included “Do I Have To Talk You Into It” and”I Ain’t The One”—but Daniel sounds less frustrated and more likely to flare up in actual emotions. As always, drummer Jim Eno played with an admirable precision, elegantly framing the tunes, and Alex Fischel, who Daniel, during his charming interview with Anne Litt, said looked like “a sexy cabana boy,” added piano and guitar sounds that mussed up and thickened the sound. “Rent I Pay” (from 2014’s “They Want My Soul”) had a clipped riff reminscent of the Cars—which makes sense, given that Ric Ocasek is one of the few singers who sounded even more tightly wound than Daniel—while “Can I Sit Next To You” is built around a stretched out “Gallows Pole” riff.
“Can I Sit Next To You” is a song you might recognize if you’ve traveled on American Airlines recently. The band made a deal that gave the carrier exclusive rights to the song. But oddly, it was done sub rosa; according to Daniel, if you tried to find the song on Shazam, the band’s name wouldn’t come up. But whoever came up with that promotion was pretty clever—on most flights you end up sitting next to strangers, so it’s not a completely left-field connection. And given today’s market, you’ve got to get your music out somehow.
Spoon’s performance and interview will run on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic on March 22 at 11am PDT. They’ll be part of the station’s Annual Global Music Festival at the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday, August 6, along with Belle and Sebastian.