Album Review: Spoon, "Transference"

I love Spoon in theory.

Like Pavlov's dog, when I hear a new Spoon album is coming out, I get excited. And just like Pavlov's dog, I should know better. It's not that "Transference" or any other Spoon albums are bad, because nothing could be further from the truth; they're all perfectly enjoyable. It's just that I always assume a new Spoon record is going to be better than it is.

In my defense, part of this is due to Spoon's undeniable ability to produce a single with a crazy hook. If it weren't for "I Turn My Camera On," they were probably still be, to me, that band that people always talk about but that I never bothered to check out.

I'm far from innocent, though. As with most people who are obsessive about music, I'm constantly on the look out for my new favorite band. So when I did hear "I Turn My Camera On," I dove into the world of Spoon like Scrooge McDuck into money. My expectations were high, perhaps unfairly so.

Again, going into "Transference," I had high hopes. The only song I'd heard was "Got Nuffin," which, with it's driving rhythm and devil may care lyrics instantly won me over. But I should have known better.

They find it periodically, but as whole, there's something missing on Spoon's albums. There's a disconnect from urgency and emotion to craft and production. It remains me of the complaints we'd hear when CDs were first becoming popular. Vinyl enthusiasts pointed out that the sound on records had more range, while the sound on a compact disc was compressed; the extremes were eliminated. That's the impression I get when listening to a Spoon album.

None of this is to say that "Transference" doesn't have some strong songs. "Is Love Forever?" is the kind of jolting, danceable track that Spoon has nearly perfected over the course of their career. In fact, it's track like this -- "Writing In Reverse," for example -- that keep Spoon alive. It's their bread and butter; it's what keeps them interesting. "Got Nuffin" and "Trouble Comes Running" are both catchy and driving, but neither seem to expand beyond their trappings, which is fine for a song or two, but encompasses the state of the entire album -- of Spoon's entire catalog.

In many ways, it seems like Spoon is playing it safe. There's no sense of danger or experimentation. Their music is great, it just feels very paint by numbers. And perhaps that's enough for them, and enough for their legion of fans. At the very least, they're going to have one killer "Best of" album someday.