Plumbiferous Media

Transference – Spoon

Jan 28th 2010
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Transference - SpoonSpoon
Score: 72

Austin rock band Spoon has been making music since it was founded in 1993, releasing increasingly popular albums, from their 1996 LP Telephono to their newest album, Transference, released on the 19th. Spoon has long built their music on a solid rock base with the instrumental flourishes that make Spoon Spoon, and that’s what Transference displays – though without some of the unfettered energy of Spoon’s best work.

The instrumentals on Transference span the entire spectrum from repetitive and simple to highly layered (and only slightly repetitive). But while diversity in this sense is certainly desirable, the instrumentals also vary highly with respect to quality, and not in correlation to complexity. The wonderful, dissonant layering of the first track works excellently with Brett Daniel’s almost grating tones, but “Trouble Comes Running,” slightly less well organized than other tracks, becomes rather cacophanous and somewhat overbearing. Alternatively, “I Saw the Light” has relatively few layers, instead using terrific progressions in layering’s place, while a number of the final tracks on the album get lost among the rest of the tracks due to their overwhelming simplicity.

Transference also varies greatly in its treatment of individual parts. The rough sound of the album opener is followed with an almost industrial drumbeat, then offset by a contrasting guitar part. On the third track, however, the fairly catchy bass line takes the role of pushing the track along while the drums assume a very basic beat which is maintained quite steadily. Backup vocals also serve as a huge part of the album, from their frankly weird entrances on “Is Love Forever?” to their more conventional parts on “Written in Reverse,” which itself maintains what is almost a jazz/funk sound.

Brett Daniel’s voice has been strikingly notable in all of Spoon’s work thus far, and Transference is no exception. Daniels switches between a constant, comfortable tone (see “Goodnight Laura”) and his trademark falsetto, alternately creating the calm of that track and the curious energy of “Written in Reverse” (for example). Though Daniels isn’t quite as eminently energetic as on some of Spoon’s best albums, there are some good moments on Transference – the raw energy of “Trouble Comes Running” brings Telephono‘s joyous ruckus to mind.

Lyrically, Transference expertly skirts the line between nonsense and entertainment. Daniel sings “Picture yourself / Set up for good in a whole other life / In the mystery zone” on “Mystery Zone,” declares “Slaves …on the horses / Princes walk the ground like they’re slaves” on “Trouble Comes Running,” and sings a lullabye on “Goodbye Laura.” In this way, Transference manages to stay mostly interesting. It is true that Transference relies upon a good bit of repetition – but Daniel and the rest of Spoon generally know how to keep it entertaining.

Transference is a very mixed album. It is repetitive, and it is solidly constructed. It moves easily between dense and open, and it is diverse in many senses of the word. Transference has a number of quite solid tracks, as well as a dose of weaker ones. It is, however, important to note that there are no truly amazing tracks. The album at its best is great, not incredible, and factoring in the weaker parts, Transference as a whole is simply good.

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