Spoon albums tend to be expansive -- the more one listens, the more one finds. Yet the expansiveness seems to contract the music itself. Singer Britt Daniel's hypnotic voice simultaneously beckons and dismisses; the persona in his songs remains evasive and side-stepping.
The band's latest work, majestic in many ways, is no exception. "The Ghost of You Lingers" succinctly reveals the case, its lyrics reverberating across an ethereal field of staccato piano keys and sound effects. Even when less consciously cryptic, the rest of the album offers much of the same. In "My Little Japanese Cigarette Case," seduction and temptation dissolve into smoke and mirrors.
Minor missteps ("Eddie's Ragga" and "Rhythm and Soul") here might work for other bands, but the failure comes from pushing the sublimity of the aesthetic to its breaking point. Beyond lies only an abyss.
-- CAREY MURPHY
DOWNLOAD: "The Underdog"
The Mooney Suzuki
More than any band in recent memory, The Mooney Suzuki has suffered from an identity crisis. Perhaps "99%," the opening track on Have Mercy, is attempting to rectify some of those mistakes. At the chorus, singer-guitarist Sammy James Jr., emotes, "When you've had it with the aggravation" before the "na-na-nas" of the refrain. Yet listeners won't forget the song's opening guitar chords, an obvious nod to Angus Young riffs. Such oscillation characterizes the whole album.
Looking for Elvis Costello impressions? Try "Ashes," "Rock 'n' Roller Girl," and "First Comes Love." And Ray Davies should sue for "Good Ol' Alcohol," if for no other reason than the lyrical debt the song owes the Kinks. When the band sheds its influences -- or does so as best as they can -- some gems emerge. "The Prime of Life" and "Down But Not Out" make forthright efforts at standing alone. For Mooney Suzuki, that's been no easy task.