Friday, July 13, 2007

Blow Out That Cherry Bomb

There was a sampled line in a Big Audio Dynamite (II) song that went something to the effect of "All anyone cares about anymore is rhythm and melody, rhythm and melody . . . " That song, of course, came out in the early 90s, well into the hip hop era, in which all anyone really cares about is rhythm; to hell with melody.

That being said, rhythm and melody, or perhaps "Rhthm & Soul," are what Austin's Spoon are all about. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who does it better. Spoon's sixth album, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, released Tuesday, is a perfect blend of accessibility and experimentalism, wrapped in spirited funk and highly infectious tunes. Indeed, there's something for everybody to tap a foot (or shake a booty) to here.

Spoon have always been a creative force to behold. On this new record, the band refines and expands on its distinct sound, and in doing so, takes its game to a whole new level. Unlike their previous outing, Gimme Fiction, which tended to plod along under the weight of heightened expectations, Ga Ga Ga (that's the hip, shortened title) breezes across the room like Paris Hilton at a paparazzi convention. The trademark staccato rhythms remain intact, but the tempos are a little more upbeat, the songs a little more loose, and there's a wicked amount of studio knob-twiddling in which the empty spaces are filled in with found sounds and exotic instrumentation.

The record opens with "Don't Make Me A Target," an overtly political protest song less notable for the venom that it spews at the current administration than for the fact that it sounds exactly like what one might expect John Lennon to be writing were he alive today. "The Ghost Of You Lingers," perhaps the most experimental song on the record, uses enough reverb to choke Neko Case in effectively conjuring the sound of multiple voices echoing in the poor protagonist's head as he suffers through a cinematic montage of aching memory.

These songs are followed by what in a perfect world would be a huge hit, "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb," which bounces along to an almost Motown-esque rhythm that's hard not to be completely seduced by, fingers snapping, head shaking, and all. In the past, Spoon tunes could be almost stiff in their mechanical tightness, but "Don't You Evah" and "Finer Feelings" are good examples of how the band's new found looseness frees them to expand their palette. The record rounds out with probably the closest thing to a Spoon ballad, "Black Like Me," which is one of the best songs I've heard this year. I know it's still early, but if this record doesn't wind up on a few best-of lists this year, someone will have to explain it to me. This is must-have stuff.

MP3: Spoon - "Finer Feelings" from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga