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Spoon's seventh album 'Transference' is true to their unique musical style

Jan. 20, 2010

By James Byers

Austin-based indie rock band Spoon is easy to take for granted. They spent the previous decade releasing critically acclaimed albums as consistently as Peyton Manning won MVP awards, the last being 2007's excellent, if unfortunately titled, "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga," which debuted at number 10 on the Billboard 200 chart. On Tuesday, the band ushered in the new decade by releasing their seventh studio album, "Transference."

The album begins with "Before Destruction," perhaps the least straightforward opening track the band has ever penned. Charismatic frontman Britt Daniel is known for his detached vocal delivery in which he spits out words, adding or dropping syllables as he pleases. However, "Before Destruction" is less playful and more melancholy. A sparse acoustic guitar and reverberating background vocals accompany Daniel as he sings of heartbreak and betrayal, both common themes in Spoon's music. "Just as you're leaving, you turn around and take a cold shot," he laments. It's an intriguing opening track, and it may reasonably lead listeners to believe that "Transference" is headed into uncharted territory. That's not the case; for better or worse, the band quickly picks up the tempo and returns to its patented brand of hook-filled rock.

"The Mystery Zone" entertains for nearly five minutes and then abruptly ends in mid lyric, because apparently that's what happens in the mystery zone. "Who Makes Your Money" uses treated vocal textures and keyboard effects to achieve a hypnotic groove. The first single "Written In Reverse," arguably the album's best song, is vintage Spoon. A pounding piano propels the song forward while Daniel channels John Lennon and therapeutically screams the chorus. It's an urgent and compelling addition to Spoon's canon of singles. "Trouble Comes Running" and "Out Go the Lights" are similarly engrossing.

Elsewhere, "I Saw the Light," the album's longest song, spends a wordless three minutes descending in melody. It's never boring, but it does slow the tempo of the album. "Got Nuffin," the biggest departure from the album's clean production, features a murky bass texture and churning guitar riffs that sound downright dirty.

If there's anything to complain about, it's that this collection of songs sounds a little too familiar. On "Transference," Spoon becomes victims of their own success. Too often Transference sounds like Spoon on autopilot. Sure, most of the songs are typically great, but by Spoon's lofty standards there is nothing as dynamic as "The Underdog," or "The Way We Get By," standouts from previous albums.

The album closes with the funky, bass-driven "Nobody Gets Me But You," an appropriate ending to Transference, both fun and familiar, if not entirely fresh. "Transference" retains their hard-earned reputation as one of the leading lights of American indie rock.

There's little doubt that in the coming decade, Spoon will consistently release albums full of immediately catchy, well-crafted songs. And Peyton Manning will probably win a few more MVP awards.

Grade: A-