It started on some random Saturday night in December of 2004 watching Austin City Limits. Some band I’d never heard of called Spoon was on the stage playing songs I’d never heard. The band looked cool; swagger for miles and they seemed to know how to use the stage to their advantage. But as cool as they looked, it was the songs that grabbed me. Pop hooks with touches of Kinks, The Jam, and Wire. I didn’t yet know Wire, but once I discovered Chairs Missing a couple years later I knew that Spoon had been fans.
I ordered Girls Can Tell and Kill The Moonlight online that night. And within six months the band released their brand new album Gimme Fiction, in my opinion a masterpiece. A huge step forward sonically, Gimme Fiction was the sound of a band evolving. The post-punk attitude gave way to a more soulful sound, incorporating piano in a big way. Spoon had quickly become one of my absolute favorite bands in the course of six months.
Within two years a new Spoon album had arrived. The summer of 2007 saw the release of the band’s newest LP, GaGaGaGaGa. Gimme Fiction saw a sonic shift, where as GaGaGaGaGa felt like a tectonic shift. Slick is a word I don’t use very often as it has negative connotations in my mind. But it’s a pretty appropriate word when describing the sound of GaGaGaGaGa. Everything about this album was a huge shift; from the production to the songwriting to the grooves to the playing. It just felt like the band sweat confidence in every track. This was next level. Top shelf.
They came out of the gates swinging with “Don’t Make Me A Target”, a piano/guitar assault that put singer/guitarist Britt Daniel’s voice front and center. Daniel and drummer Jim Eno have been the mainstays since the early days, and these two just mesh. Eno’s not a showoff of a drummer, but he’s one of the most solid and powerful players we have working today. He’s a Charlie Watts kind of player; he stays in the pocket and holds the whole thing together, allowing Daniel to be creative and kind of esoteric in his guitar playing.
Another secret weapon to the Spoon world was producer Mike McCarthy. As much as I love nearly everything Spoon has offered up in the last 25 years, I feel the records since the band parted ways with McCarthy don’t have quite the same magic as they did when he was behind the boards. And his magic shone the brightest on this album. “You Got Yr Cherry Bomb”, “Don’t You Evah”, “Eddie’s Ragga”, “Finer Feelings”, and “Black Like Me” shine bright under McCarthy’s production powers. When I first heard “You Got Yr Cherry Bomb” I thought it was some lost Brill Building classic, and Mike McCarthy’s production gives it an almost otherworldly vibe. Britt’s reverbed howls, the driving piano, the backbone of the chugging bassline and Eno’s persistent snare, that song gave me goosebumps. It still does.
I loved the oddity of something like “My Little Japanese Cigarette Case” or the sparse and alien “The Ghost Of You Lingers”. “Rhthm & Soul” is persistent in its drive and slight psychedelic flourishes. The one oddball song was the sole track produced by studio guru Jon Brion. “The Underdog” is a horn-heavy track with strummed acoustic guitar, and strangely kind of falters with its airy, muted production. In comparison to the rest of the album, it just seems somewhat out of place.
Despite the little interlude of “The Underdog” GaGaGaGaGa is an A++ record. Even after 15 years it’s proven to be the band’s strongest and most realized album. I still have a soft spot for Gimme Fiction, but I can’t argue the brilliance of their 2007 masterpiece. And what’s come after has been great. Transference seems to be a bit of a black sheep among Spoon fans, but for my money it’s still a great album. Sparse, somewhat lo-fi in some spots, but some great tunes on there. 2014s They Want My Soul is a big album. Solid all the way thru with some great production from Dave Fridmann. And some absolute gems when it came to songs. 2017s Hot Thoughts? Well, while there are some good tunes the electro-disco feels just aren’t my thing. “I’m Not The One” is a great track, though. And this year’s Lucifer On The Sofa is a solid record.
But we’re talking about GaGaGaGaGa.
15 years sounds like a very long time ago, but when you’re eyeing the barrel of 50-years old it doesn’t seem so long ago. At least not it terms of how long ago it feels. It feels like it was yesterday. My kids now are 22, 19, and 17. Back then they were 7, 4, and 2. 15 years gone in the blink of an eye, or the duration of an album. Summer of 2007 was all about this little Spoon record. It hit just right for me. My kids remember these songs. Well, I’m sure one of my kids does, anyways. My 19-year old picked up quite a few of my music obsessions; Dr. Dog, The Beatles, Tame Impala, Mac Demarco, Of Montreal, and Spoon have all ended up on Spotify Playlists that she’s curated. I could hear them playing through the bathroom door when she was taking a shower. At least I did when she was still living at home. She’s now out on her own, but I’ll still get the random text about a song. “This song says my birthday in it” she texted with a screen shot of Dr. Dog’s “What A Strange Day”. “Yes it does” I replied.
The days have felt particularly strange as of late. New things are now old. Young kids are now old. Young dogs are now old. Young parents? Old. New music? 15 years old. While you can’t make yourself or your kids young again, you can always revisit an old album and feel young again. That’s the great thing about music, you know? That while the actual album ages, the songs seem to rejuvenate. They have a sort of magic to them where you may tire of the lyrics and melodies, those songs become new again when you revisit them years later. They take you back to when you first discovered those tunes, and with that you go back to those emotions and events, and even the damn sunny day you were driving around town with it playing in the car. And those little people in the backseat in oversized car seats, bopping their heads to “You Got Yr Cherry Bomb” or “Don’t You Evah” as they sink their little hands in a baggie of Cheerios to snack on. They return to you as well. Even if it’s just for the runtime of a song.
Yeah, 15 years since Spoon’s GaGaGaGaGa came out. Feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago. It’s still a masterpiece, though, regardless of the timeline or the level of melancholy I may be living in at the moment.