Thursday, July 26, 2007
SPOON | Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga | Merge
Spoon is a band of paradoxes. They love faux-artsy, misspelled or slangy album/song titles, while the actual content is always high art. They hail from Austin, Texas, but sound like they just crossed the pond. And, most impressively, they manage to create indelible pop gems that are as skeletal and vague as they are bombastic and lush.
Continuing one of music’s finest winning streaks (dating back to 2001’s Girls Can Tell), Spoon have released another stunning record of ephemeral pop and sleek rock. Opener “Don’t Make Me a Target” uses vamping guitar chugs and a crunchy chorus to get topical about “nuclear dicks with the dialect drawls / that come from a parking lot town.” Nonetheless, it is the ringing “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” and the brassy, Jon Brion-produced strum-a-thon “The Underdog” that stand out as timeless pop entries.
Even Spoon’s miscues are fairly enjoyable. “The Ghost of You Lingers” is a lovely tune of jagged piano stabs and lilting vocals that is forgivably unaffecting, while “Don’t You Evah” locks into a nice, funky groove and remains stuck.
Still, as singer/songwriter Britt Daniel goes, so does Spoon, and he is in top form on the flamenco-infused “My Little Japanese Cigarette Case,” the affecting “Finer Feelings” and the simmering closer “Black Like Me.” It seems, once again, that Spoon will remain one of the quirkier bands with massive crossover appeal – a band everyone can go gaga for. – Michael Petitti
THE NELS CLINE SINGERS | Draw Breath | Cryptogramophone
There are still no vocalists in the Nels Cline Singers, and the third disc from the guitarist’s latest group project again proves the much-belabored point that you don’t need a microphone to get your point across. Between Cline’s richly expressive and exceedingly adventurous guitar work and the screwy, across-the-map approach of the group’s rhythm section (Devin Hoff on contrabass and Scott Amendola on percussion), the Singers are not a cup of tea that will be easy to drink for Wilco fans who have been impressed by the guitarist’s work with that band.
Though Draw Breath doesn’t fit snugly within the sonic parameters of Wilco, it’s equally uncomfortable in the “jazz” milieu, where many people might try to place it. Improvisation is a big part of what drives the disc, but the weird, wonky way that Cline approaches his guitar eschews much of what people associate with jazz guitar. There’s freedom and fun here; the path Cline has set out for himself makes the disc unique and rewarding, but also not an easily classifiable effort. – Jason Ferguson
THE DYNAMITES FEATURING CHARLES WALKER | KABOOM! | Thirty Tigers
Whether it’s a deliberate reaction to the banality of contemporary urban music or an innocent revival of past glory days, the deep-funk sound has once again become a force to be reckoned with. Steeped in traditions of early Stax Records and the Atlantic Records-Muscle Shoals connection, the Dynamites featuring Charles Walker pack a one-two-three punch on their incendiary KABOOM!. The singer, the songs and the band combine to make a near-perfect “soul” album, a rarity in today’s music world.
It’s easy to drop the names that obviously influenced this record: Otis Redding, James Brown, Eddie Floyd, the Bar-Kays. But Walker is also an original with a career that started in the early ‘60s. He hasn’t lost a lick of style or voice, giving songwriter Leo Black the perfect medium for his finely constructed R&B jewels. And the Dynamites are just that – dynamite. Sharp as tacks and super funky, they bring it all to the table and dare you to sit still. – James Kelly