Sunday Morning: Future Cult Legends Spoon

Three years after their ingenious album was released, it only sounds better and better.

[Editor's Note: The "Sunday Morning" essay is an opinion piece and does not reflect the views of or its affiliated companies.] Editor In Chief Michael Goldberg writes:

If the rock band Spoon never go platinum, it won't be for lack of talent or the ability to bottle magic.

Spoon remind me of Big Star, the band Alex Chilton led in the early '70s and perhaps the most famous cult rock band of all time. Like Big Star, Spoon make a kind of poppy rock that had its start in the mid-'60s music of the Beatles.

These days, if you play the kind of music that topped the charts in the '60s, you're likely to attain cult status, at best. And if ever a band seemed destined for cult status, Spoon are it.

Spoon's masterpiece is A Series of Sneaks, released in 1998. I have listened to it perhaps 100 times. It is still as much of a mystery to me as it was the first time.

On A Series of Sneaks, I hear a sound that owes something to Elvis Costello and the Attractions, the Pixies, John Lennon's Phil Spector–produced "Instant Karma" (check "Reservations"), the Buzzcocks and Pavement.

I was heavily into Spoon and their Soft Effects EP back in 1997. Then, earlier this year I read a piece about them in the Village Voice by author Camden Joy.

Joy's piece detailed how the band had been signed to a major label, only to be dropped mere seconds after A Series of Sneaks was released.

I immediately dug out that CD and started listening. I haven't stopped.

Singer/songwriter and guitarist Britt Daniel has one of those classic rock voices. You know, like Kurt Cobain or John Lennon or Guided by Voices' Robert Pollard. He writes cryptic lyrics. That's a good thing.

And whatever Daniels is saying in his lyrics, for me, the message here is all in the music. Check the Spy vs. Spy guitar riff that opens "The Minor Tough" (RealAudio excerpt).

Or listen to the rhythm of "30 Gallon Tank," where minimal guitar and steely drumming create a tension that Daniels explodes out of. I think, toward the end, he's singing "going down on the century, going down on the century."

This music is a kind of code. I dare you to crack it, I imagine Daniels saying. Of course to crack it, all you have to do is listen.

I recently sat behind a one-way window, watching so-called average music fans as they were interviewed about music Web sites. What did they think of when they thought of a music Web site? Buying CDs, many of them said.

We are citizens of a giant store, programmed to buy, programmed to equate a new purchase with sex, glamour and success. Over and over, it seems, we are told in so many ways that there is nothing more to life than the surface. What you see is what you get. Mall culture, if you get my drift.

"And she's never been to places that she oughta ...," goes a line in "Reservations" (RealAudio excerpt).

Spoon's music says there is more to life than the mall. Spoon's music opens up vistas, it is a window into mystery. It says there is more to all of this than it might seem.

© 2000 Michael Goldberg All rights reserved