Modern Classics: Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, (2007)

Along with being a mouthful, Spoon’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is a modern masterpiece.  The oft-mislabeled as indie band from Austin, Texas managed to create an atmosphere on the album that unfolds much like its cover; unique little pieces for each arrangement culminating in a work more beautiful in the eyes of its beholders as a whole.

Spoon is headed up by the unique combination of songwriter/guitarist Britt Daniel and drummer/arranger Jim Eno and both play a distinctive part in the band’s sound. Spoon is no stranger to the headlines in the indie music scene, famously being dropped by their first major label, Spoon caught fire with their debut record A Series of Sneaks which contained two not so subtle digs at former Elektra A&R man Ron Laffitte “The Agony of Laffitte” and “Laffitte Don’t Fail Me Now”. Though they had previously echoed a sound made famous by groups like The Pixies and Wire, album by album Spoon whittled down their style bit by bit, making it into a modernist painting, an ode to the darkly tinged psychedelia that permeated The Beatles Revolver and The White Album. There’s a great argument to be made in how Spoon became more like The Beatles than their previous influences, there’s an equal, if not greater effort put into the song’s overall production rather than just the songwriting itself. Again like The Beatles,  there are no flashy solos, no parts where the individual is recognized over the whole.  This quality, most noticeable on this record, is perhaps what keeps Spoon going, there are no ego battles, just musicians focused on the music.

Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga gets the ball rolling with the caustic and sardonic “Don’t Make Me A Target” and the melodies and hooks just keep going from there, just as if Britt Daniel and Jim Eno are that sculptor who make great things out of the smallest little pieces.

1. Don’t Make Me A Target

As if beginning where the previous post (The White Album) left off, Don’t Make Me A Target plays out like a more bitter sibling to Sexy Sadie.  Spoon also shows its skill as a rock band, but with focus on precision rather than flash.  The descending guitar line reverbed with a little grit is perfect and the drums syncopate with perfect rhythm backing lyrics Lennon would be proud of before descending into organized chaos.

2.  The Ghost of You Lingers

The second song is one odd left hook that if it had been written by Coldplay, masses of critics would have converted overnight and praised Chris Martin for the musical genius that was coming to light, in other words its good.  But it also defies convention, the hook is still there, the babbling piano hook being the inspiration for the album title.  The arrangement is great, with Britt Daniel’s voice doing a ghostly dance all over the place.  While pushing the creative boundaries, Spoon manages to keep the ear hooked on the familiar and thats their genius.

3. You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb

And all the sudden the darkness lifts, the arrangement rings out with bells and horns and Motown reverb styled glory and a really nice melody, one of the most upbeat hooks in music, not just this album.

4. Don’t You Evah

Spoon is good enough to rely on their own artistic merits, so to cover the song of a little known band (The Natural History) is an interesting choice on their part. But to their credit they have fun with it and make it their own, a circular little number with a fantastic bass line and descending guitar hooks.  This is a song that will stay in your head for days.

5. Rhthm & Soul

A beautiful example of a sum is greater than all its parts, and one of their finest arrangements, again they feature a precise attack and interesting textures, and the little guitar part 2/3rds the way through fits perfectly.

6.  Eddie’s Ragga

The most interesting arrangement on the whole album with some great lyrics to boot.  The music will keep you guessing one change to the next.

7.  The Underdog

The most pop oriented song on the album  provides a refreshing change of pace and organic arrangement with the low end and horns bursting at the seems, a happy cautionary tale that just makes you want to dance.

8. My Little Japanese Cigarette Case

A just as spooky, but vastly more organic and instrumentally textured The Ghost of You Lingers, Spoon’s experimental bits prove to be just as catchy as their precise take on rock structure.  This song might not reach you the first time but it stands up well after repeated listens.

9.  Finer Feelings

Everything is played perfectly on this song, from the precise in the pocket rock groove, to the instrumental textures they throw in to the bouncing bass line to the great descending guitar line, which is the best of the album on an album full of them.

10.  Black Like Me

Already a classic from the beginning with a very Day in the Life-esque piano melody, the organic production of acoustic guitar maracas and piano with the otherworldly backing vocals is perfect.  The song becomes genius at the 1:30 mark, where it breaks out of its mold with a thunderous drum fill.  The Beatles would be proud.

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