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Spoon



It's been an extraordinarily rocky road for this Austin, Texas power-pop-punk trio, one fraught with the unique perils that come with trying to succeed in the backstabbing world of the record biz. For many, Spoon's story has come to exemplify the dirty dealing and two-facedness that has come to define the major label side of the record industry, so much so, unfortunately, that it has come to define the band almost as much as their music.

The story in a nutshell: a starry-eyed, immensely talented young band from Texas with a catchily skeletal, rhythm-heavy sound reminiscent of post-punk heavyweights like The Pixies and Wire, flushed with the mild success of their first two Matador releases (their 1996 debut LP, Telephono, and their '97 follow-up EP, Soft Effects), scores a deal with major label Elektra Records, which puts out the band's second full-length, A Series of Sneaks, in 1998. Comprised around a terrific core featuring talented drummer Jim Eno and singer/guitarist Britt Daniel, who possesses a rough, elastic whine that ranks with the classic rock and roll voices, Spoon's got an extraordinarily unique, but accessible sound. The band looks forward to increased record sales, broader airplay, more fans. Everything's roses. Until a few months after the critically acclaimed album's release, when Elektra unceremoniously drops the band like so much dirty laundry into a hamper, effectively burying Sneaks.

Stunned, Spoon drifted without a label for the next year and a half or so, before finally hooking up with the noble Chapel Hill label Merge Records. After retooling, the band issued the five-song Love Ways EP in 2000 and their third full-length, Girls Can Tell, in 2001. The releases demonstrate that in spite of the trials and tribulations they've faced, their sound hasn't suffered a bit. If anything, it has grown smoother, cleaner, and more assured -- see, for instance, the dynamic, ringing "Me and the Bean" and poignant, pensive, bluesy "Lines in the Suit." These songs are short and action-packed, positively crackling with electricity, with off-kilter rhythms and strange meters generally the order of the day. Like The Pixies and the great post-punk bands that preceded them, Spoon is incredibly adept at using their songs' negative space to create tension and energy. This is not to suggest that Spoon is a knock-off; more like a worthy descendent of these bands; with each subsequent release, though, they seem to sound less like older groups and more like themselves, which is, perhaps, the way with all great bands.

Girls Can Tell was great, but you almost got the feeling that the band was trying to mollify the very label that had dropped them, doing away with the rough lo-fi edges that had made Sneaks so appealing in favor of a more polished pop intricacy. For their fourth album, Spoon cut its songs down to their raw, sinewy cores to create Kill the Moonlight, one of the most electrifying albums of 2002, and one of the best rock albums to dance to in memory. After a three-year hiatus, the band returned in 2005 with Gimme Fiction, expanding again with a broader and denser sonic canvas, while maintaining the almost obsessive-compulsively detail-oriented production they'd perfected over their previous albums.