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Spoon – Gimme Fiction

I always knew Spoon were depressed, but this is a new low.

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To: editor@soundthesirens.com
From: xxxxxxxx@earlham.edu

Subject: Spoon Review (?)

Hi,

You don’t know me, but my roommate writes for your ‘zine. He has been under a lot of stress lately, and I think it was this last review (a Spoon album?) that drove him over the edge. When I found him a week ago, he was passed out in front of his computer, locked inside our room without nourishment or sunlight presumably for a number of days. He had several empty wine bottles by his side, and was drooling into empty Sun Chips bags. When I woke him up, he appeared startled and starting ranting about “the aural complexity of early-era NOFX,” before he stumbled out. I haven’t seen him in 4 days. This is what was written on his computer-

-Anthony Campbell

Gimme Fiction intro write-up 1

In a recent article in the normally brilliant Paste Magazine, writer Bud Scoppa says that Spoon is a band that incorporates everything “he [sic] loves about music, from The Beatles to Marvin Gaye.” The rest of the article is extremely well written, and contains a concise and informative band history, but it was this once thought that stuck with me and vexed me to no end. The Beatles managed to make chaotic and furious tracks like “Helter Skelter” sound almost playful, and should not be mentioned in the same conversation as the calculated, often cold songs that Spoon turn out. And Marvin Gaye, whose soulful, expressive voice exuded such warmth and emotion is miles away from the rhythmic, limited delivery that singer Britt Daniel is capable of. Sure, there are tracks on Gimme Fiction where the band sounds playful, such as the brilliant “Sister Jack”, and others where Daniel’s vocals are expressive and unexpectedly strong, such as the falsetto funk, “I Turn My Camera On” or the foreboding “My Mathematical Mind,” but … well … there are others … crap, let’s start over…

Gimme Fiction intro write-up 2

That’s the problem with hearing the demos of an album’s tracks; when you hear the final version, the rough spontaneity of the original has been sanded into a mid album lull. Such is the case with both “Sister Jack” and “I Summon You” which appeared on the Spoon website a few months prior to Gimme Fiction’s May release. The former, while still energetic in its album version, was explosive in demo form, showing an exciting counterpoint to the normally carefully crafted Spoon I was used to. “I Summon You,” on the other hand, appears in the exact same form, except for an unnecessary and cluttered drumbeat, done by expert skinsman Brian Eno… where could I go from here?

Gimme Fiction intro write-up 3

I always knew Spoon were depressed, but this is a new low. There is only one example of the upbeat pop such as “The Way We Get By,” or “Take The Fifth” that scattered their last two releases offering breaks from the melancholy mood. “Sister Jack,” which appears halfway through the album offers a burst of energy and melody. The rest of the tracks are measured, with loud melancholy bass lines. Even lyrically … wait … actually … the lyrics are surprisingly obtuse and not really too dour…let’s see here- Daniel convincingly pens songs about his love for music in opener “The Beast and Dragon, Adored,” and “I Summon You.” “I Turn My Camera On” is about a relationship … maybe (“You made me untouchable for life, and you wasn’t polite.” …wait …what?!@?) “The Infinite Pet” is … about magical dancing spirits … maybe (the chorus is “the infinite pet comes when you pirouette.” My god, not even Malkmus could get away with a line like that). God, I’ve digressed…

Gimme Fiction intro write-up 4

Spoon is a band, is many ways, comprised entirely of a rhythm section. Brian Eno, the band’s drummer, producer and only other permanent member is just as much as part of the band’s sound as singer-guitarist-bassist-pianist Britt Daniel. Up until this point, Spoon’s songs have usually been comprised of selected elements (“Stay Don’t Go” was keyboard and voice, “Take the Fifth,” drums, bass and vocals), and never came together sounding like a rock band, usually due to the lack of guitar and the drum and bass-centered production. On Gimme Fiction, the band’s new album, the songs are louder and more complete, and in many ways more traditional than those on their past albums.  However, as Daniel was playing most of the melodic instruments, much of the album consists of very distinct overdubs, giving each instrument its own voice and volume; at the expense of unity …you killed the momentum, Gabe. Why can’t you just write something straightforward and simple? DO YOU LIKE IT OR NOT? WHY? THAT’S ALL YOU NEED.

Gimme Fiction write-up 5

OK. I can’t deal with this anymore. I can’t deal with trying to describe what Spoon sound like to friends (the best I can do is, “They’re like Interpol, but without all the droning, and from Texas,” at which point most people stare blankly). I can deal with the oblique lyrics, the total lack of guitar in a ROCK BAND. I need something simple, something concrete, and Gimme Fiction is not it. It is at once their hardest rocking album since “A Series of Sneaks” and yet also their most calculated effort, with their usually isolated sounding production. It is at once lyrically compelling and off-puttingly nonsensical. It rocks, sulks, drones (I still can’t get through the albums last two tracks, “They Never Got You” which sounds a little too much like The Strokes’ “Last Nite” for my own taste, and “Merchants of Soul” which goes nowhere). Yet still, somehow, in words I don’t think I can form at this point, I can guarantee that this will be one of this year’s most gripping and challenging rock releases. It isn’t an example of Spoon in a slump. It isn’t transitional. It isn’t a radical departure, nor is it stagnant. It’s a rock record, one with few frills and even fewer promises or pretexts. Sometimes, that’s all that needs to be said.

(Merge Records)

Reviews

Alice Cooper – Breadcrumbs EP

Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper

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Alice Cooper Breadcrumbs

For a large number of Alice Cooper fans who didn’t experience everyone’s favorite snake-adorned shock rocker at the height of his powers through the ’70s, most probably were introduced to Cooper through 1989’s hair-metal infused generational breakout album Trash. That was at least, my introduction to Vincent Furnier, at the age of 9 years old, seeking for something to satiate my love of hair metal and shock rock. Trash was everything Bon Jovi’s New Jersey was- big, radio-friendly- but had that added sense of danger and darkness that didn’t come with the pretty side of hair metal. However, as sure as songs like “House of Fire“, “Bed of Nails“, and the ubiquitous hit “Poison”, are still great today, long-time Alice Cooper fans know that Cooper is at his most enthralling is when he taps into his garage rock lineage, cut from the same mold that was paved by bands like the MC5.

So for those born in the early 80s like myself, the initial foray into the world of Alice Cooper meant that you had to work your way back into this long-running discography to find the rich, often timeless work Cooper is best known for. In 2019 Alice Cooper himself is working his way back on his latest EP, the aptly titled Breadcrumbs. The 6-song EP finds Cooper revisiting music and artists connected thematically by what ties them all together- the Motor City. This Detroit-centric EP features Alice Cooper’s take on songs by Suzi Quatro, The Dirtbombs, Motown soul singer Shorty Long, and of course, The MC5 (the EP also features guest guitar and vocal work from Wayne Kramer). Included in the mix are a reworked version of the 2003 Alice Cooper song “Detroit City” and one new cut, “Go Man Go”.

On his reworked “Detroit City”, the song is given a rawer makeover, sounding far less produced than the original. Gone are the orchestral overdubs with the song relying more on the loud bluesy guitars- perhaps the way it was meant to sound. Suzi Q’s “Your Mama Won’t Like Me” stays fairly faithful to the original, but Quatro’s vocal sneer is replaced with.. well, Alice Cooper’s vocal sneer. MC5’s “Sister Anne” is almost as great as the original 1971version, with the added benefit of today’s production qualities.

The EP’s one new track, “Go Man Go”, is very much Detroit, and very much Alice Cooper. It’s rock n’ roll roots are coated with a little bit of rockabilly, a little bit of garage, a lot of attitude. Like this EP, the track should be a precursor of Alice Cooper’s anticipated next album. The hope is that he continues this work of keeping things dirty rock n’ roll as the results are more often than not, pretty great.

Few frontmen of rock will ever be as enigmatic and as timeless as Alice Cooper. Breadcrumbs is a noble effort meant to tease and build anticipation than satisfy your craving for all new Alice Cooper material. It’s done just that, hinting at what could be around the corner. On top of which it shows that there are few rock stars who will ever reach the status and longevity of everyone’s favorite rock n’ roll snake charmer.

(earMUSIC)

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Reviews

Goo Goo Dolls – Miracle Pill

The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good

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Goo Goo Dolls Miracle Pill

One of the most remarkable things about the Goo Goo Dolls is their steadfast consistency amongst the ever-changing backdrop of popular music. Six years ago when they released Magnetic, I wrote that the band remained unchanged in the face of their supposed “waning popularity” in the eyes of pop culture and radio charts. It’s true that many of their contemporaries that made it big alongside them in the late 1990s are long gone, but for the Goos, they’ve quietly continued to be above everything else, themselves, just older, wiser, and continuingly more refined. Miracle Pill is their 12th studio album and is the natural progression from 2016’s Boxes. Like their previous release, Miracle Pill continues their musical evolution away from alternative rock to the more serene territory of adult contemporary. Sure, it may sound like a bad thing, but like everything the Goos have done over the past 25 years, it’s supremely confident and composed.

They may not write songs with the caustic bite like “Here Is Gone” anymore, but they have been finding comfort in the more introspective pop-strewn melodies found in songs like “Lights”. Similarly, in the new album’s lead single and title track, the Goos tap into bouncy, easy-to-digest pop empowerment. Songs like “Indestructible” show that the band haven’t put down their guitars just yet, constructing songs that are still fond of their alternative rock roots but have found comfort in grander, more expansive sounds.

The album’s best moments are when the Goo Goo Dolls unashamedly tug on the heartstrings like they’ve done so many times before. The quiet jangly nature of “Over You” does this particularly well, while the bigger, electronic-infused arena rock of “Lost” shows that this type of music is just done extremely poorly by bands like Imagine Dragons. “Autumn Leaves” is a throwback to the kind of songs found on Let Love In and Dizzy Up The Girl, sounding organic and wistful, while the closing of “Think It Over” is the kind of song they’ve been hinting at since Something For The Rest Of Us. It’s part quintessential Goos, but contemporary and timeless at the same time.

Credit to the Robby Takac songs of the album too- “Step In Line”, “Life’s a Message”- both some of the finest songs Takac has written. He is often cast in the shadow of John Rzeznik’s more recognizable sound, but on Miracle Pill, his work is the best its sounded since Dizzy.

The Ringer recently wrote a piece titled ‘The Goo Goo Dolls Were Never the Cool Kids, but They’re Still Standing’. I echoed these sentiments in that Magnetic review years ago, but if there was anything long time Goo Goo Dolls fans know is that the band were never concerned about popularity or being “cool”. The problem with being cool in music is that it fades. The Goo Goo Dolls have always just written good music for people who cared only that the music was good. Not much has changed in that sense, and really, that’s much better than being cool.

(Warner Bros.)

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