A Blog About Nothing in Particular

Spoon – Hot Thoughts

I haven’t been this excited for new music from Spoon in some time. Maybe since Gimme Fiction? I loved Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, liked a few tracks on Transference and then I’m embarrassed to admit that I slept through They Want My Soul altogether.

The lead single, “Hot Thoughts,” strikes a familiar chord: it is unmistakably a Spoon record, finding a groove and locking it in. I’m looking forward to hearing more in March.

In Praise of Spoon

I know people have cooled on their steely grooves, but I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through 2002-2007 without steady doses of Spoon. Two songs in particular that galvanized my will when it was bent near the breaking point: “That’s the Way We Get By” and “The Underdog.”

Can’t listen to either of these tunes without being transported back in time. The former reminds me of a sweaty summer spent in Brooklyn, punching F5 on craigslist or interviewing for jobs for which I was but one of hundreds of applicants. I’d turn this all the way up as I sat on my futon, scraping by on adjunct lecturer’s wages and whatever was left on my student loans. The latter takes me to a better place: finally back on the job after nearly a year out of work. It was their brand new album at the time and I had a hard time believing that “The Underdog” wasn’t my personal anthem that summer.

A few years on and I keep finding myself coming back to these records. I can’t think of a band whose body of work has more closely fit my moods over more than a decade of fandom.

The New Spoon Album

I’ve been listening to Spoon’s Transference for the past couple weeks. They’re on of my favorite bands. Britt Daniel has become a great lyricist and the songs have gotten catchier with every album. That is, until now.

I heard an interview with the band last night that made Transference more appealing than it is. Daniel and Jim Eno made the album’s weaknesses sound like strengths. There’s no hiding the fact that their efforts to make an “uglier” record succeeded, so why not embrace it?

They knew what sound they wanted and produced the record themselves, but that’s not the issue. Transference is immediately recognizeable as a Spoon record; the problem is that it’s not a very good one. You’d have to go back to the daring, equally uneven Kill the Moonlight to hear something as infuriating as this. Sequencing, not production, stops Transference in its tracks.

Spoon buried the best songs in the middle third of the album, starting with “Written in Reverse” and ending with the plaintive strains of “Goodnight Laura,” a song that veers dangerously close to maudlin which wouldn’t be so bad if this weren’t a Spoon album.

We’ve come to expect great things. Their sound might be best described as Billy Joel songs as reimagined by Wire. Songs like “Sister Jack” and “The Underdog” burnished their reputation as a band on the cusp of greatness. There’s nothing of that caliber here.

Transference should’ve been Spoon’s magnum opus, the product of two decades worth of hard work from a band at the height of its power. Instead it’s the album you can tell the uninitiated they can safely ignore.

In Praise of Dinosaur Jr.

Have I really not written anything about Dinosaur Jr. since this post? Seems so, apart from a passing reference in 2011 to J Mascis’ excellent Several Shades of Why back in 2011. It’s crazy, because when I really think about it, Dinosaur Jr. may be that band that somehow survives every critical hangup I ought to have about them.

I mean, I found things wrong with my favorites that makes it hard to understand how I ever loved them so much in the first place. R.E.M., neatly summed up in a 2-part podcast over at Shallow Rewards, is one example. Pavement, Spoon and Sonic Youth? Love them barely ever listen to them these days. Even bands I fell in love with as an adult, like Fiery Furnaces, Liars and TV on the Radio feel dated.

Somehow, I don’t feel the same way about Dinosaur Jr. Maybe it’s the unmistakable crunchy riffing or the timelessness of J Mascis’ voice, but there’s something deeply satisfying about them. I find myself returning to these records and Mascis’ recent solo work more often than I realize.

As summer fades and fall draws near, I know I’ll be spending more time with their latest record, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not, like a favorite sweater.

I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing: The Agony & Ecstasy of the Real-time Web

I find myself at a crossroads with new real-time tools and old school methods like RSS. I’m finding myself more drawn into Twitter than ever before for tracking the people and topics I care about most, but I’m always paranoid that I’m missing something brilliant as the news flies by. So I keep Google Reader locked and loaded as backup, only to find myself overwhelmed by 1000+ unread items when I arrive, much of which I’ve seen throughout the day on other services. The real-time web is a thrill ride of instant gratification for the news-obsessed, but the other side of that coin means we’re probably missing more relevant stories than we realize.

How do I reconcile these things? Will real-time tools ever offer the reassurance RSS does for the news junkies among us?