B>Addicted To Noise Washington correspondent Chris Nelson
reports:Fans of the Austin, Texas band Spoon may have an odd bonus in store
for them if they pick up the band's new Soft Effects EP--half of the
discs sent to stores have two additional songs from the group's Matador debut,
Telephono. This distinctive pressing (originally intended as a
media-only promotional item) is the result of a mistake at the CD plant. As a
result, the packaging for the EP offers no clue whether the disc inside
contains five or seven songs.
"I wasn't too happy about that," says
25-year-old singer, songwriter, and guitarist Britt Daniel, "but the only
alternative was to call them all back and push back the release date, and we
didn't want to do that."
Actually, the Soft Effects EP is a treat in
itself, extra songs or not. Telephono was released just last spring and
has garnered an ever increasing amount of praise since then. Daniel in the
meantime created enough new material that Matador decided to strike while the
band's iron was hot. Instead of releasing a single with a bevy of extra tracks,
the label decided to push Soft Effects as its own self-standing
The EP's five new tracks pick up where Telephono left off,
which is to say they take the band's obvious love for the Pixies into both
noisier and craftier realms. Daniel manages to wrench quite a caterwaul out of
his little ol' acoustic guitar. So hefty is the noise it creates that most
listeners are liable to misinterpret the thing as a crunchy electric. Daniel
used to play an electric as a matter of course, but adopted his now trademark
acoustic instrument when his electric guitar broke. A simple distortion pedal
and "dirty" switch on his amplifier help him to generate Spoon's big noise, so
he's seen no reason to go back to the conventional rock guitar. The acoustic
"looks kind of awkward or geeky," says Daniel, "but it's got a real crisp,
non-heavy, sort of wiry sound to it."
Songs like "Mountain To Sound" and "Get Out The State" are
driven by Daniel's off beat time signatures and often cryptic lyrics, but the
combination is by no means prohibitive. These songs attract the curious
listener like a puzzle just waiting to be solved. Numbers such as "Waiting For
The Kid To Come Out" and "Loss Leaders," on the other hand, showcase Daniel'
equally strong command of infectious melody. The extra tracks from
Telephono ("Don't Buy The Realistic" and "The Government Darling") serve
as a great down payment for those wondering whether they should go for the full
album. (Indeed they should.)
Spoon's first success came with an ironic
twist in 1994. "Six months after we had first started there was the South By
South West [music industry] Conference in Austin," recounts Daniel. "We weren't
invited to play that." But the band was headlining one of the yearly anti-SxSW
shows. Notes Daniel, "There's some resentment amongst the true blue punk
rockers in Austin for all of these industry insiders and everybody coming to
town and making a big hoopla."
As it turns out, however, Spoon's show was
attended by one of the indie-stry's biggest hipsters, Matador Records owner
Gerard Cosloy. "I heard that [he] was at the show and liked us a lot," says
Daniel. "When I heard that he was into it, I started sending him tapes, and we
sent him our seven inch that we put out."
Thus began a year-long
correspondence between the songwriter and label head, during which Cosloy
helped the band with New York show bookings, radio interviews, and advice. The
exchange fully blossomed when Cosloy offered Spoon a contract after hearing the
rough mixes of Telephono.
"That's something great about Gerard,"
says Daniel. "He's doing this big label thing, but he definitely keeps his eyes
on other things. I don't think he means to sign all the bands that he helps
like that. I think he just does it because he's into those bands."
returned Cosloy's favor by touring heavily in support of the Matador release.
The band has hit the road nine different times since Telephono hit the
streets. They'll set out again, this time to boost Soft Effects,
beginning in Feb.