REVIEW: Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Merge

Posted August 19th, 2007 by eric

By its third record, 2001’s heartfelt and immaculate Girls Can Tell, Spoon stopped sounding like the sum of its influences (namely, Guided by Voices, the Pixies, and Nirvana) and actually created the outline of a sound that it adheres to to this day. Succinct arrangements, spiky guitars, and minimal beats have served Spoon well over the course of three records, but something had to change to avoid a musical stalemate.

After Gimme Fiction it seemed as though Spoon had exhausted every angle of its own template, so the future looked questionable. The band could have easily repeated itself, remaining in a comfortable zone of hooky, off-kilter pop or embraced the dark underbelly of some of Gimme Fiction’s more esoteric, dirge-like compositions, which would probably have alienated much of its fanbase.

Instead, Spoon retained its core minimalist ethos and simply improved its songwriting skills. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is Spoon’s sixth record and might even be its best. Each song is so carefully crafted and well-honed that it flows with the ease of a classic album. Britt Daniel’s vocal range may be stuck in an affected post-Elvis Costello strain, but he knocks out so many hooks and killer melodies that his skill as a vocalist is never in question.

While Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga utilizes Spoon’s most eclectic instrumentation to date, it never sounds forced or like the band is trying too hard to do something new. Britt Daniel and Jim Eno are such meticulous craftsmen that a Spoon song rarely outstays its welcome. Even an obvious, self-referential hook like that of the coarse opener, “Don’t Make Me a Target”, sets a confident yet nostalgic tone aimed at making the transition from the last record to this one as smooth and seamless as possible.

The experimental escapism of “The Ghost of You Lingers” serves as an atmospheric trifle. Its fleeting, fragmented nature defies Spoon’s entire MO, but it works because it concisely sets a mood without dragging its feet. After that it’s honestly one pop gem after another. Daniel crams so many catchy hooks into each song that the record flies by, and you’ll immediately be hard-pressed not to start the whole damn thing over again.

There’s an inherently retro feel to much Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. A broad-brushed soul canvas underpins pithy pop constructs like “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb.” Compared to Gimme Fiction’s over-reliance on repetition, Spoon has trimmed the fat considerably. Some melodies will invariably sound familiar given Spoon’s limited scope; “My Japanese Cigarette Case” is a prime example, yet its skillful use of Spanish guitars and minimal percussion make it stand out from the fray.

It’s obvious Spoon was hyper-aware of the trappings of repeating itself in the studio and Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga’s wide-ranging assortment of unorthodox sounds is evidence. Even though the tools with which the band speaks have changed, the quality of its songwriting has only gained momentum, making Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga a shoe-in for top ten lists at year’s end.

Tags: album-review