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Spoon | Kill the Moonlight (12XU)
I'll say it at the beginning, so you won't have to wade through the length of this laboured attempt at music criticism. This album is amazing. It's amazing not for the way it pushes music forward in an interesting direction (it doesn¹t, really); not for the singer's voice (he's no Sebastian Bach of Skid Row), or for the way the band brings the most hardcore elements of underground drum 'n' bass music to the forefront (theres no drum 'n' bass on the album). If you're looking for reasons for greatness, here's one you won't have expected. The tambourine playing on Spoon's latest, 'Kill the Moonlight', is some of the best you'll ever hear. And while tambourine playing rarely makes a song, its inclusion is indicative of the care that's put into each element of the album. I once heard that, contrary to popular belief, there is only one true story in drama: A fuck, deferred. It's the truth, and the sentiment could carry over into rock and roll. There is only one true rock and roll song, and at its best it holds off, holds off, then gives it to you - BANG - in just the way you wanted, in just the position you had requested. Spoon has lengthened the deferral. The first song on the album, Small Stakes, builds and builds with urgent vocals and pulsing keyboard. It chafes but never releases. The second and best song, The Way We Get By, allows a pretty piano to lead the melody for fifty-six seconds until finally the drums come crashing. When the band gives in and plays a straight-ahead rock song, the result is magical. And then, after they've rocked out, Spoon goes back to crafting another seven careful experiments in sound, though they never sound experimental for experiment's sake. At the centre of it all is lead singer Britt Daniel, who seems to have honed the talent of knowing when to employ a clever rhyming couplet ("We found a new kind of dance in a magazine / Tried it out it's like nothing you ever seen") and when to say something stupid that will carry the song. Who knows? The album may fade in time. A fuck deferred, then fulfilled, could become tiresome after months, but one can't look ahead in that way. It's best to enjoy a great unexpected album while it lasts. 'Kill the Moonlight' is the sound of a guitar band holding off the guitar as long as they can and exploring the small possibilities of the tambourine, the hand clap, a human voice sampled. In the age of tepid retreads, it's the sound of imagination.
CWAS #11 - Autumn 2002