August 09, 2006

Spoon "Telephono/Soft Effects"

I hate to be one of those cynical aging indie-rocker types that you see around Austin, but I have to say that I consider Spoon's early, pre-Merge records to be their best. (Okay, that includes Girls Can Tell, but that record existed well before they signed with the esteemed Chapel Hill label). These early records captured a hungry, young band who felt they had something to prove, even though they were on well-established labels at the time. Since then, the band's sound has softened, mellowed, and, in my opinion, has grown to the point where it can grow no further.

Telephono is crunchy indie-rock, a precursor for what they would do on their major label debut/fiasco, A Series of Sneaks. The music is a blend of power-pop and punk-rock sneer, and believe me, it is magic. I've been in love with this record for nearly a decade, and for great reason. Britt Daniel sings with a wonderful, wonderful sneer; "Not Turning Off" is like unleashing hungry, rabid wolves into your ear. The guitars are scorching HOT, his voice is screamy and rough and is going to kick your ass right now. But they don't stop there; the rest of the album continues this aural assault; long-time favorites "All the Negatives Have Been Destroyed," "Nefarious," and "Idiot Driver" still sound fresh and exhilarating, a decade on. These songs have only improved with age, and I still get the same thrill whenever I crank this record up. Okay, so the later songs on the album seem to run together, and Telephono is definitely a picture of a band in its formative years, but that doesn’t detract from the record's overall brilliance.

Oh, and Soft Effects? Outside of Sneaks, which followed it less than a year later, it's easily their best record to date. What? It's only an EP, you say? Trust me, this record is one compact and thorough kick to the gut. It highlights both their mellow side and their rocking side, and the five songs are pure classics. From "Waiting For the Kid to Come Out," their loving tribute to the Electric Lounge, and the mellow "I Could See the Dude," to their stoner-rock of "Get Out The State" and "Mountain of Sound" and the somewhat sad country-rock of "Loss Leaders," I played the heck out of this record when I got it for a reason. I'm glad there's a new reissue of it, so I can promptly play the heck out of it again.

The only complaint I have with this two-disc set is…where are the bonus tracks that would fit so well with this package? The songs from All The Negatives Have Been Destroyed, the "Not Turning Off" single, the Nefarious EP, or the tons of comp tracks they released back in the day? Those tracks would have fit in perfectly here, but then again, that'd only take away from the inevitable "singles collection." Oh well, a minor grumble, and that singles comp will kick ass, so there's nothing to complain about right now...

Oh, and Travis Higdon is still the greatest Cover Star ever!

Listen To: Stream both records in their entirety at Merge's website!

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