(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

CD review - Spoon - Kill The Moonlight (2002)

Slap-CHOP! Themes of alienation and how to cope inspire staccato power pop songs. On Kill the Moonlight, Austin's Spoon channels new wave/power pop bands like Wire through a more modern indie rock filter. The songs all have a touch of new wave emotional distance as they deal with helplessness, numbing distractions, and disaffection. The driving, choppy beats make it an interesting listen and keep it from slipping into some kind of emo sink.

Normally, production values don't stand out unless the band is going for a low-fi feel (e.g. some of Beck's early work) or heavily using a technology like AutoTune. The stripped down arrangements on Kill the Moonlight are engineered to emphasize a disconnection between the component parts. In particular, several songs have piano parts that sound photoshopped in. That said, there's a retro vibe here that's compelling.

There's an overwhelming Brit feel here, with many of the songs evoking groups like XTC (Something To Look Forward To), T. Rex (Someone Something, You Gotta Feel It), and Elvis Costello (All the Pretty Girls Go To The City). The saving grace is that it's a set of influences, not rip-offs.

All The Pretty Girls Go To The City is one of my favorite tracks. Aside from the saturation of Elvis Costello throughout the song, there's a wonderfully ominous piano that has some of the same threat as the guitar in Costello's Watching the Detectives. It's complemented by shards of echoey guitar. Although the lyrics are a bit ambiguous about these girls, the music is a walk down a rainy alley that acts as a warning.

Vittorio E stands out as unique on this album. The sound is nothing like the rest of the songs. A collection of recording studio artifacts coalesce into a song. It builds, surrounded by a haze of U2, with layers of elements accruing into a pearl of a song. It's pretty and smoother, without the relentless staccato beat of the other songs. There's still some of the same sonic distance, so the pieces don't mesh as smoothly as they could, but it's a fine after dinner mint of a song.

Enjoy a double shot of espresso while you listen to Kill the Moonlight.

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