In the calfskin-taut midsection of Spoon’s brilliant Gimme Fiction, the aesthetic comparisons to Spoon’s forefathers fall away and we’re left to ponder: Is the trio from Austin, Texas — a cradle of indie civilization in the middle of red-state wasteland — in the midst of a winning streak great enough to warrant comparison to the famed trifecta of Stones albums (Beggar’s Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers)? Are Spoon’s twists in sound, from the brooding bedroom rock of Girls Can Tell to the thin, welterweight strong-structures of Kill The Moonlight, convincing enough to warrant potential rock blasphemy?Gimme Fiction has more meat on its bones than the negative space-chewing songs on Moonlight. “The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine” gets a boost from an unforced string section that compliments singer Brit Daniel’s puzzling and ultimately tragic narrative. The deft turn into “I Turn My Camera On” and its haunting sleaze-funk, complete with murmured vocals, establishes a rhythm of thematic crests and shadowy valleys for the rest of the album. Lurid, voyeuristic songs like “The Infinite Pet” and “Was It You?” dip their toes in dirty electronic noise pools. Clean, acoustic tracks build up in crescendos that lead to a guitar-smacked catharsis. “Sister Jack” rambles through brassy percussion and jangling guitars.Each attempt to pin down a concrete influence on Gimme Fiction brings with it a different interpretation. The acoustic movements gain distance; previously cold tremors of feedback, as in the opener “Beast and Dragon, Adored,” suddenly feel downright necessary. It’s equally difficult to pick a favorite track on Gimme Fiction. The album doesn’t feature an obvious crowd pleaser, though “Monsieur Valentine” comes closest. Moonlight’s lead single, “The Way We Get By,” converted listeners to the Spoon bandwagon, but anyone who stopped to listen to the whole album found a trove of tracks worthy of adoration. The reverse is more true here: You’re attracted to the concept of Gimme Fiction before slowly discovering the appeal of individual songs.The moody sexuality and piano-driven songs on Spoon’s latest may trick listeners into mistaking Gimme Fiction for a distillation of Girls Can Tell, but Daniel’s romantic grimace lurks under the surface with more visceral bite. And while the title alone evokes both the Stooges’ and Stones’ more desperate moments, Spoon avoids rank imitation again: They tell stories with pure truth and lay down raw indie-rock beside malleable, drowsy ballads that slither over the ear like a snake.
Again, discussing which bands in the past 40-odd years of rock have influenced Spoon isn’t a completely fruitless exercise, but it’s certainly more fun and productive to imagine the bands that are going to be made in their image. They’re going to want to sound like Spoon. They’re going to remember the moment they first heard Gimme Fiction on their stereo growing up, and we should, too.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars