If nothing else by them since has hit such a perfect balance between pop and art, sadness and elation, Daniel has at least sustained his position as one of American indie rock's most engagingly odd songwriters. His new album, Gimme Fiction, though, and this gig, suggest it might be time to tear off the post-punk straightjacket, and strike out for something new.
Daniel is in a pin-striped shirt tonight, hair spiked, and the focal point. But, unusually for a Texan band, there's little in the way of chat. More than 20 tracks are punched out, with hardly a pause. There's a welcome early emphasis on Girls Can Tell. "Me and the Bean" offers a pocket of sunny, early-Seventies calm. "Lines in the Suit" then revisits the despair that Spoon's breakthrough was born from, as Daniel wonders, "How come she feels so washed up at such a, such a tender age now?" "The Fitted Shirt" follows, its nostalgia for Daniel's childhood and desire for a return to craftsmanship in pop summing up his key concerns.
Gimme Fiction, too, is full of allusions to pop's devotional power, and capacity to disappoint. But the way Spoon play, such subtleties are hard to locate. There are exceptions, such as the Rubber Soul jangle of "Sister Jack", or the keyboard pump of "Small Stakes".
On the clanging "Vittorio E", as well, Spoon whip into a passage of scratched-out feedback. They follow it with "They Never Got You", on which Daniel's voice is double-tracked like John Lennon's, then grows urgently hoarse as the music thickens behind him. "Jonathan Fisk", "Everything Hits At Once" and the set-closing, Costello-esque "Car Radio" also give late reminders of his enviable melodic facility. But what's lacking is a moment where he stops the "hit" parade, to really let us feel something.
The emotions in his songs may be cloaked in lyrical mystery, but they are heartfelt. He needs to find a way to let them out, and get them to us.
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