Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley and Brad Kopplin
The ether that makes up the percentage of Spoon's surroundings other than air and the et cetera could just well be of a different consistency than is normally recognized. It's always this ether that's given over to certain inexplicable frivolities, potions, miraculous tongues and runaway balloons, off the weak fingers of tiny tots. It's this ether - or a specific portion of it - that gets drawn upon by Britt Daniel, Jim Eno, Rob Pope and Eric Harvey as they make album after album of choice lurkings and the way that they form themselves into odd configurations of dynamic pop songs that are faithfully original to a general aesthetic that half of them started creating 15 years ago and have performed this sort of self-ritual to the point that it is one of the most engrossing and progressive institutions on the American rock and roll landscape. It is not hyperbole, these thoughts, just facts - indisputable and formal.
They seem to support the nurture over nature theory of songwriting because if this were natural it would not feel as special — it would be too prevalent. Daniel has never gone for the easy lyric or the uninteresting display of both starkness and cleverness. He has honed his skills as a writer through repetition and editing that have allowed him the luxury of saying that he's not put a half-baked song out in front of people. They all feel as if he personally has taken the grains of sand, pried open the taught mouths of live oysters and implanted them inside for the future growth of a glimmering pearl, willing to wait out the pregnancy, willing to let all of the processes happen inside that dark shell that it may take to grow that small token.
The band has nearly perfected its relationship with space - with how much it needs, how much it can leave behind and how it can fuck with the space that it decides it would like to fraternize with, to manipulate into the punchy, atmospheric goldmines that it puts together and calls its children. Daniel puts to shame the capabilities of most writers - with his chronic detailing of poisonous nights full of decisions of all ilk in his woozy hoarseness that is an absolute delicacy - bringing into focus the limitations that befall the legion of underdogs, of which they belong and of which they've proudly fathered.
In Spoon, we have a band that doesn't forego cream for steam, but just puts itself into those endless nights full of absurdities and hook-ups, drop-outs and conundrums that will likely be fizzing and lingering long into the days ahead. They implant themselves into the cuticle of an orange flame in all kinds of flammable threads, getting the hottest spikes lapping against their arches, heels and armpits. These situations are the norm for the group of Texans and yet they feel aloof and extemporaneous, full of new wonder and crystallized logic.
A Paul Simon cover here lends the line, "I'm gonna be up for a while," and it seems to sum up the general itinerary for collecting the material needed to see not only the most authentically bastardized and ravenous aspects of the human condition, but then to see them turn seconds later into the buds of things that could be taken into the heart and not mess anything up. These up-all-night escapades feel so likable and important in the ways that Daniel sings them - as if he were out there doing the hard work for all of the rest of us - nailing down all of the definitions of these secrets to enlightenment that are pains in the ass to chew on when there are office meetings and carpools to catch.
Something that was written in Wired recently had to do with the truth that scientists are not making as much progress in discovering cures for diseases - or getting to the solutions quickly enough - in part because they are only studying people when they go wrong, not when they're going right. Luckily, Daniel is cutting to the quick of us underdogs when we're off and when we're on and we're learning a lot, not to mention getting to move a lot amongst the jittering shadows and the spilled alcohol.