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?