Little Defense for ‘Transference’

Spoon is catchy. Damn catchy. In fact, I’d argue Spoon is probably catchier than your favorite band. Go on, try me.

Spoon’s body of work has always been pleasantly consistent. “Cool” is another good word to describe this band. I mean seriously, these guys replaced a drum-kit with a human beat-box on one of their tracks; how much cooler can you get?

The cool has snowballed into something even bigger than the previously underrated band could handle. The quartet’s lead single “The Underdog” from their last excellent record “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga” made them the new Modest Mouse. Spoon suddenly became trendy for doing the same things they were doing for years.

Well, Spoon took a few years and came back with the follow-up to their mainstream breakthrough. The new album “Transference” has many familiar sounds to it that’ll make fanatics smile, but some of it is lacking. The lyrics are less playful and deal more with somber emotions, but that’s not even what takes away most from this album. It’s an alright bunch of songs, but a lot of these tracks just feel like half-hearted jams that were dragged out rather than the finely tuned songs we’re use to.

The album starts off with “Before Destruction.” The track initially feels a little awkward, but it’s one of the best things on here. It has the same mystique that made the piano smashing “The Ghost of You Lingers” so interesting off “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.” Singer Britt Daniel’s crooning is in top form here, and it’s all in all a very fascinating track.

“Is Love Forever” takes the opposite route and hits you with something you can chew on right away with catchy chords and a killer breakdown about halfway through. The lead single “Written in Reverse” hits you with the same urgency and immediacy that is found in many Spoon singles. So what’s there to complain about?

Something those songs have in common with many classic Spoon songs is that they’re short, to the point, and don’t overstay their welcome. Usually this is something this band has mastered. Even in longer songs, hooks never drag on and there’s always something fresh going on. But a good majority of this album would have most fans reaching for their older records.

A tune like “I Saw the Light” starts off brilliantly, with every member slowly collapsing the walls of your ear drums with delight. But for some reason, the band completely changes tempo halfway through with no transition and meanders through a repetition of chords with little purpose. “Out Go the Lights” and “Nobody Gets Me But You” are quaint tracks that are both a couple agonizing minutes too long.

There are some songs that don’t even start with much to begin with. “Who Makes Your Money” is a downbeat snoozer and “The Mystery Zone” is just pointless. How the latter makes it past two minutes is incredible enough, but it actually rounds out at about five minutes, making it one of Spoon’s longest songs. Even Daniel sounds like he’s just throwing up words as he goes along.

This is pretty disappointing for a Spoon record, but even the bad songs have redeeming qualities. And those first couple of tracks, along with the Beatles-esque ballad “Goodnight Laura,” shows how great this band can be. But reputation can only get you so far before expectation catches up. This would be a decent album for any other band, but Spoon has got to keep up with the barometer they’ve set so high. And frankly, “Transference” just doesn’t measure up.