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Gimme Fiction (Bonus Track Version)

Spoon

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Album Review

The three-year stretch between Gimme Fiction and Spoon's previous album, Kill the Moonlight, was the longest gap between the band's releases since the end of its disastrous relationship with Elektra Records helped put two and a half years between A Series of Sneaks and Girls Can Tell. Though the circumstances behind this hiatus probably weren't as dire as those behind the band's previous one, the anticipation surrounding Gimme Fiction was nearly as high as it was for Girls Can Tell, and Gimme Fiction feels like as much of a refinement on what came before it as Girls Can Tell did at the time. A dark, theatrical album seething with late-night tension and menace, Gimme Fiction is a bigger-sounding affair than Spoon's previous work, with lots of keyboards, guitars, and strings parts courtesy of the Tosca Strings. But, even with the album's bigger scope, the band keeps its eye for detail. Everything about Gimme Fiction, from its artwork — which looks like photographer Irving Penn doing a surreal fashion spread on Little Red Riding Hood for Vogue Magazine circa the 1950s — to the little sound effects that embellish each song, is meticulous. Fortunately, "meticulous" doesn't spill over into "careful" or "precious"; the album's first three tracks show that Spoon makes music that's intricate and rousing at the same time. "The Beast and Dragon, Adored" acts as a slow-building preface and statement of intent, mentioning later song titles and introducing Gimme Fiction's big, brooding sound. "The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine," a string-driven tale of a mysterious gentleman/cad, boasts some of Britt Daniel's cleverest storytelling, while "I Turn My Camera On" turns voyeurism and emotional distance into a subtly irresistible groove that sounds like a tense rewrite of the Stones' "Emotional Rescue" (later on, the intro of "They Never Got You" sounds strangely like Hall & Oates' "Maneater" — it's nice to hear them reach back to '70s and '80s references that aren't the post-punk and new wave influences borrowed by so many other indie rock bands, or even the Elvis Costello nods that shaped so much of Spoon's earlier work). Gimme Fiction's opening trio of songs is so strong that it tends to overpower the rest of the album at first, but other standouts eventually bubble to the surface: "My Mathematical Mind" is one long verse, broken up by instrumental interludes where choruses would normally go; it keeps building and building, and though it's not an immediate song, it is a hypnotic one. On the other hand, the relatively lighthearted "Sister Jack" and pretty but oddly jittery acoustic ballad "I Summon You" just emphasize how moody and nocturnal the rest of the album is. Indeed, taut, restrained tracks like "The Delicate Place," "The Infinite Pet," and "Merchants of Soul" seem to be more about supporting Gimme Fiction's nocturnal mood than standing out as great songs. Still the interesting productions and arrangements on songs like these and "Was It You?" make them enjoyable in their own right. "Meticulous," "distant," and "restrained" may not be the most likely adjectives to describe a good rock record, but they fit Gimme Fiction perfectly. With this album, Spoon continues to build one of the most consistent, and distinctive, bodies of work in indie rock — the band makes changes and takes chances from album to album, but ends up sounding exactly how Spoon should sound each time. [Gimme Fiction was also released with a disc of bonus tracks that included the previously unreleased songs "Carryout Kids" and "You Was It," as well as demos of "I Summon You" and "Sister Jack."]

Biography

Formed: 1994 in Austin, TX

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

With their heady blend of precision punk and serpentine classic rock (the band has drawn comparisons to everyone from the Pixies and Sonic Youth to Elvis Costello and Tom Petty), enigmatic, Texas-based indie pop outfit Spoon went from underground press darlings to one of the genre’s premier commercially and critically acclaimed alternative rock acts. Formed in Austin by singer/guitarist Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno, Spoon released its debut EP, Nefarious, on the small Texas imprint Fluffer Records...
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