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Spoon | Girls Can Tell (Merge/12XU)
Perhaps it's the Anglo-influences stirring in their Texas blood, but something in Spoon's music leaves me feeling disorientated, unable to find a focus. Perhaps vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Britt Daniel's open love for such new wave luminaries as Wire, Joy Division, Gang of Four and The Cure can explain the 80s colourings of Girls Can Tell, the fifth full-length of a nine year career that's also seen them exploit the mini-album/EP format to which their eclectic punk-pop seems more suited. Daniel, like former labelmate Robert Pollard before him, adopts a British accent for much of the time, opener Everything Hits At Once, suffering from a style I can only describe as agitated-queerTM, over an otherwise pleasing keyboard-based jaunt. Believing Is Art has that new-wave staple Is Vic There? muted guitar progression, before some spiky, almost Wilko Johnson, jabs elicit some passion, Daniel's voice in similarly staccato style. Me and the Bean is Kurt Cobain fronting Magazine (like I'd have a clue), whilst one hopes that there's a meaningful subtext to The Fitted Shirt ("One day it'll take / And they'll start to make / Shirts that fit right / Til then I suppose / I still got my dad's clothes / And that's alright") to justify such bizarre subject matter. Anything You Want could have been pulled from a seventies Tom Petty or Mink DeVille album, Take A Walk a slice of forgettable punk...and on it goes, through the unlikely instrumental, This Book Is A Movie - which really does sound like a backing track in need of a vocal - to the closing Chicago At Night, an attempt at something atmospheric but which, with lyrics like "We'd hit a wall / And like the fall / This was all," possesses all the menace of an ABC reunion.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #7 - Spring 2001