Am Tibepoe Sonhdae Urc
(T h e S p o o n A b e c e d a r i u m)
G is for...
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
First off, about the title: it's pronounced "chk chk chk."
Ok, not really, it was inspired by the piano sound that pulses over Britt Daniel's triple-tracked vocals on the exposed and sinuous "The Ghost of You Lingers."
X is the last letter of...
The eagerly anticipated follow-up to Gimme Fiction is Spoon's sixth full-length recording. This means that for the fifth time in a row, people will proclaim the band has started a new phase, elevated to another height and/or finally made the record that will sell a billion copies.
Except for the part about the billion copies, this is understandable, as Spoon really do accelerate ahead with every record, exploring, reinventing and refining both their sound and songcraft while remaining recognizably themselves. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga opens up with "Don't Make Me a Target," which begins simply enough (Ok, this sounds like Spoon, it almost reassures) before a glorious acceleration into static, fuzzboxed guitar and a galloping piano line. It fades out with the dark but sweetly orchestrated elegy of "Black Like Me." In between are eight more catchy, natty, weird and unexpected rock'n'roll songs.
H is for...
Eric. Piano and keyboards.
Pope. Rob. Bass.
Eno. Jim. Drums.
Daniel. Britt. Vocal.
Q is for...
You thought this one was gonna be "Quincy Punk Episode," didn't ya? The Mayor of Springfield, U.S.A. is named after a street in Portland, OR: erstwhile home of The Simpsons creator Matt Groening and the place where Daniel now resides.
T is for...
'Cause it sure as hell isn't for Tennessee. T is also for Daniel's childhood home of Temple, a little shitkicker of a city about an hour north of Austin.
True story: one time in the early '90s at the office of the Austin Chronicle, a writer came in all dressed up for Yom Kippur.
"Where were you?" one of the paper's junior editors inquired.
"Temple," the writer replied.
"What'd ya have to go all the way up there for?"
P is for...
Jim Eno's studio, where the bulk of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga was recorded despite the fact that Daniel was no longer calling Austin home.
"It made it so that whenever we did get together, it was intensive work," he says. When it came time to actually record, he basically lived on a futon in the studio for five months.
L is for
'Cause what major label A&R guy wouldn't want to tell his grandchildren he was immortalized in a bilious 7" single ("The Agony of Laffitte / Laffitte Don't Fail Me Now") about the music business, memorializing Spoon's unpleasant and abbreviated time as "Elektra recording artists."
The band's sophomore CD A Series of Sneaks went on to achieve genuine cult status despite the utter lack of MP3 blogs (or MP3s, for that matter) way back in 1998.
A is for...
Without getting into engineering geek-speak, Gimme Fiction was the first time Spoon had used it. On Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, the band continued to embrace the technology, but also worked to openly subvert it.
"I wanted the ends to be a bit more frayed," Daniel says. "Automated mixes are coolthere's things you could never do with hands on the fadersbut you also cut a lot of things out that normally would just be in the background. All those nuances and elements add up to a different feeling, so we intentionally tried to leave them breathing throughout the songs."
Z is for...
He's playing Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits. So are Spoon. (They'll also be at Lollapalooza with Stephen).
E is for...
Everything Hits At Once
Do call it a comeback. The first song on 2000's Girls Can Tell, a record that marked the beginning of the band's relationship with Merge. It's a romantic noir masterpiece of melodic warmth and sonic breadth.
B is for...
A long word that means "short." Spoon are good at short. Tight songs. No wasted space. Records clocking in at around 36 minutes.
"Just because you can have a 70-minute album doesn't mean you should," says Daniel.
U is for...
Longtime collaborator Michael McCarthy produced every song on Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga save for this swinging slice of horns and hooks, which was done in Los Angeles with sonic gadfly Jon Brion (Fiona Apple, Aimee Mann, Kanye West).
So what was that like?
"He was very polite, he didn't change clothes often, and he always wore
incredible striped socks," says Daniel.
I is for...
One of Spoon's earliest songs, as featured on the 1995 Austin indie compilation Peek-A-Boo Bicycle Rodeo. By then the band had already been discovered, Lana Turner-like, by Matador Records. In this case Schwab's Drugstore was a punk club managed by a drag queen that booked local bands who didn't rate official SXSW showcase slots.
D is for...
Daniel's former nom-de-solo-artist has been retired, but Daniel still plays gigs outside the band. He also spent part of 2006 soundtracking the movie Stranger Than Fiction with Brian Rietzell, and recently covered Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home To Me" for the Portland charity compilation Bridging the Distance.
K is for...
Kill the Moonlight
The critics on 2002's follow-up to Girls Can Tell.
It's so reassuring when the indie rumor mill isn't just licking its own asshole.
"Don't Let It Get You Down" could be the Strokes in 10 yearsif they work hard.
- Entertainment Weekly
[T]his all feels like a decidedly different Spoon, like the real start of the next phase
C is for...
Um... what Spoon lacked in 1997?
But seriously, the newspaper in Memphis, TN, as referenced in "Finer Feelings," a snappy, funky and impressionistic anthem that includes two crowd noise samples and one of Mikey Dread.
M is for...
You might say fans of Spoon at Bumbershoot 2006 were treated to a "bonus episode" when David Cross did an ass-baring "interpretive dance" to "The Beast And Dragon Adored." And here we thought he was a "never-nude."
Another famous fan is Stephen King, who named "I Summon You" the best song of 2005.
J is for...
Attention critics: why not trade in all those Wire, Can and Suicide comparisons for a shout-out to the Arch-Drude? Britt gives his permission.
N is for...
The Natural History
"Don't You Evah" is a cover of a still-unreleased track by the New York City band. In other words, Max Tepper is to Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga as Austin songwriter John Clayton was to Girls Can Tell.
"Covering our friends' songs, I think it's a cool tradition," Daniel says. "I would never want to cover a Beatles song."
V is for...
Sure, Spoon enjoyed a few spins on The O.C. background-music-go-round, but that was nothing compared to Daniel's "acting" debut: a bit of Elvis Costello karaoke for the crime-solving teens of Neptune, California.
Alas, when Britt rejected actress Charisma Carpenter's backstage overture ("I just couldn't do that to Xander," he commented later) show creator Rob Thomas scratched plans to use his music as the basis for a future episode, opting instead for Cotton Mather/Future Clouds and Radar's Robert Harrison.
R is for...
"Eddie's Ragga" is named for Eddie Robert of the Austin band I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness, as the song was born during a "jam" (yes, they really use that word) with him in January of 2006.
Daniel produced ILYBICD's 2003 debut, and has also collaborated with Bright Eyes and Interpol.
W is for...
They're tall. They're blonde. They're labelmates. They hail from the same state. Officially, however, all the members of the Daniel clan deny having "French-Canadian relatives." After all, Temple is extremely close to Crawford.
Y is for...
You Got Yr Cherry Bomb
And the horns return. The bells and handclaps on this sparkling pop gem were added by someone claming to be Phil Spector in a Second Life recording studio.
S is for...
Spoon have got it:
"Merchants of Soul."
"Rhthm and Soul."
Street tar and summer do a job on your...
F is for...
As in Gimme. As in Stranger Than. As in much of this bio.
- Jason Cohen
Jason Cohen previously authored (with Michael Krugman) ""Kid A to Zzzzz: A Radiohead Reactionary" and "The Flaming Lips from Z to A"