Tag Archives: don’t you evah

Spoon – Written In Reverse

I wish I had grown up listening to Spoon. I’ve written on several occasions about the way their precision-engineered intelligent pop music gets to the point in just the right length of time, with witty, insightful and intellectualised lyrics coupled to hooks and grooves that are sparse, but catchy as anything. I defy anyone to listen to “I Turn My Camera On” or “Don’t You Evah” and not have their hips swinging within the first thirty seconds.

And my, how they’ve grown. It’s startling to think that the same band that produced a work of such brooding melancholy as Kill The Moonlight has since gone on to create a sparkling gem of a pop song as The Underdog, laden with parping brass arranged by Jon Brion. Their 2007 LP, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, was a masterpiece of concision and emotion. In January, they will bestow upon their adoring fans a new creation, which will be called Transference – possibly in honour of the psychoanalytical phenomenon involving the unconscious redirection of emotion from person to person.

In anticipation of this, Spoon have treated us to an early indulgence, in the form of a new single, entitled “Written In Reverse”, which hits digital retailers tomorrow, but can be streamed from NPR Music right now. Unsurprisingly, I’ve already given it a spin on your behalf. It’s an interesting beast, somehow more reminiscent of their Gimme Fiction-era work, riding in on parlour-room piano and an almost criminally lazy drum beat. The bass is throbbing and occasional; Britt Daniel’s vocals are sandpaper-hoarse and multi-tracked like a choir of Tom Waits clones. Unlike some of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga‘s best surprises, there’s a return to the wandering, night-time feeling that characterised the two albums before it. 3 minutes and 20 seconds in, you think there might a dose of levity in a surprising chord change on the keys, but the respite is fleeting, instead leading into an exquisite interplay between piano triplets and gurning, insistent guitar moves. The protracted false ending could be another comedy gesture, were it not for the claustrophobia that envelops the actual ending.

“Written In Reverse” is expansive and sophisticated, and certainly the song I predicted would follow sneak-preview single “Got Nuffin'”, released earlier on in the year in a three-song EP. That song had a quick-limbed motorik groove; this song is more lumbering and sleazy. Which is no bad thing, because no band this side of The National does reflected sleaze and grease better than Spoon – the way Britt Daniel can paint a character’s portrait is wonderfully enriching. It’s a grower of a track, then, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it ended up being etched into my brain before long, like so many of the band’s previous creative apogees. For sure, I expect Transference to be nothing short of a magnum opus.

Epilepsy Is Dancing!

Antony Hegarty inspires a surprising amount of dislike. Well, alright, it’s not that surprising: with a voice somewhere between Nina Simone and Rufus Wainwright, and an aesthetic that inspires some alarm in more conservative music-listeners, he’s hardly mainstream entertainment. However, what has always attracted me to his work is the combination of grim terror at mortality and beautiful melodrama that invades every minute of it. Back in 2005 I thought they were spot-on to award him the Mercury Prize for I Am A Bird Now; only last year I thought he was the star performer on Hercules And Love Affair, lending his soaring tones to a selection of the year’s finest dance tracks. Interestingly, removed from his usual environment of sombre piano and fluttering orchestral arrangements, Antony sounded far more assertive; more of a diva, and it suited him rather well. It’s not his fault he was born to contemplate man’s fragile existence on earth, and on H&LA the extent of his invigoration imbibes the songs with an alluring mix of hedonistic abandon and tragic nostalgia, particularly on the highlight, “Blind”.

And now, at last, he’s back with his regular troupe Antony and the Johnsons, with this year’s The Crying Light. Regrettably, I’ve yet to hear the album from start to finish – you only come to this blog for quality music journalism! – but the two tracks I have heard do indeed push his voice into uncharted musical territory, which is refreshing and wonderful. The video above is of the album’s lead single, “Epilepsy Is Dancing”. As Alexis Petridis noted in his review of the album, the song

doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs on paper, and indeed, it’s not exactly a barrel of laughs on record

but I would add that it has a charming folksy lilt to it, with light jazz guitar, feathery strings, an almost-invisible oboe, and surprisingly sweet piano. Though the chorus sees Antony singing

Cut me in quadrants
Leave me in the corner

which initially sounds rather chilling, he continues

Oh now it’s passing
Oh now I’m dancing

which suggests an uplifting caveat to what is an otherwise typically grim subject. Indeed, I would not hesitate to alight upon another central aspect of Hegarty’s work: rather than playing up to the victimised portrayal of gender confused artists, he has empowered a lot of people to stand up for their sexuality by singing about tough subjects in a resolved manner. His songs continually reference cases of extreme sadness and tragedy, but he is never prepared to lie down without a fight; always determined to look for the quirky joy that his life brings.

The second song I’ve heard, “Aeon”, sees Hegarty singing about love over delightfully Lou Reed-esque guitar arpeggios. It sounds a bit like “New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down”, but for a man, instead of a city. A lot of critics have mentioned the rather ostentatious climax of the song, which sees Antony literally screaming

Hold that man I love SO MUCH!

but I must confess that I rather like it.

IN OTHER NEWS

  • Pitchfork gave Tonight: Franz Ferdinand a respectable score of 7.3, but it’s the words in the review to which you’ll want to divert your eyes. The reviewer is mightily impressed by what he sees as the band’s evolutionary stage, where they have explored a range of genres and styles, with equal aplomb. I can’t wait for Amazon to deliver me the goods.
  • I got into Spoon far too late, but if you want a gem of a song that is practically perfect, check out “Don’t You Evah”, which is their cover version of an unheard-of band’s song, and which appears on their 2007 album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. It’s ace, and it features some humorous dialogue between singer Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno at the beginning, as they sit in the studio laying down the tracks. The melody; the vocals; the drums – it’s all there. I just wish it was written by them in the first place. Though I’m willing to bet the original song isn’t actually as good as the cover.
  • Finally, if you go to this website, you can hear a new song from The National, entitled “So Far Around The Bend”. It’s a bit more jolly than the stuff from their masterpiece of an album, 2007’s Boxer, and it contains orchestral arrangements from Nico Muhly, who did the arrangements on The Crying Light, mentioned earlier in the post. The compilation itself, Dark Was The Night, is a charity thing, put together by The National, and features songs from a selection of awesome artists and bands, including Arcade Fire, David Byrne, Bon Iver, My Morning Jacket and so forth. I’m sure it’ll be worth getting.