The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Tuesday, March 6, 2001

Spoon's Pop Minimalism

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: It was raining this past Saturday night when Spoon played Bimbo's in San Francisco. For a while, I stood outside the club under the awning, talking to my friend, Gil Kaufman, now features editor at SonicNet. He and his wife Stephanie had come to check out Spoon also — I've been raving about Spoon for about a year and a half, but Gil would have been there anyway. Being a Noise Pop show made it seem a little special — which it was because Spoon were playing. Inside the club, Tim Scanlin and his band, Action Slacks, were rocking out onstage. Tim sings and plays a really cool Rickenbacker guitar; when the group slammed into "John L. Sullivan" — "Then let me shake the hand that shook the hand that shook the hand/ Of John L. Sullivan" — they sounded really excellent. As a huge Spoon fan, Tim was really happy to be playing a show with them. The crowd was into it; the crowd was growing. A lot of people in San Francisco get it, dig on the new scene. The new scene, of course, is always changing, but it's also always the same. What's new: the bands, sometimes. There are always more, and some of them are good. What's always the same: the feeling. The feeling is good. You're in a club, part of a fairly small group of people who know about the band(s) playing, know they're good. It's kind of a community, and you're part of it. Anyone can join — you just have to love the music. I was real excited. I'd been waiting a long time to see Spoon. Now their new album, Girls Can Tell, was out; I'd been listening to it for two months, along with the older recordings: Telephono, Soft Effects, The Agony of Laffitte, Love Ways and A Series of Sneaks. I was drinking mineral water; I was high on nothing but the night. At 10:16 by my watch Spoon — leader/singer/songwriter/guitarist/co-producer Britt Daniel, drummer Jim Eno and two new members, keyboardist Eric Friend and bassist Roman Kuebler — walked out onstage and set a rainy noir mood with "Chicago at Night," a song about a girl trying to deal with the aftermath of a relationship that's ended. "She still broke right down after all," Daniel sang. "Because she knew that it was all over and we'd hit a wall.../ Now it's all around/ In the city/ On the ground." Britt Daniel is tall and skinny, with not-too-long brown hair and a-little-longer-than-average sideburns. He plays a big, fat electric guitar plugged into one of those Vox amps that helps you get that British Invasion sound. Their set packed 15 songs into 50 minutes; for most of that time, Daniel stood almost still at the microphone, or turned to face drummer Eno. The focus is on the songs, not the performance — but because the performance is so minimal, the small details become large, thrilling. Like when Daniel finally lifted the guitar up into the air as he continued to play it — a triumphant gesture. As the set progressed it became brilliantly clear how much the audience, which filled the dance floor in front of the stage, was getting off. The songs, one after another — "Take A Walk," "Lines in the Suit," "The Fitted Shirt," "The Minor Tough," "Mountain to Sound," "Anything You Want," "Car Radio," "I Could See the Dude," "Metal Detektor," "Waiting for the Kid," and more — sound like Spoon's Greatest Hits. Only Spoon hasn't actually had any hits yet — yet another proof of just how fucked-up everything is. Daniel is a master of pop minimalism. If you need two notes to say it, he'll manage with one. Drummer Eno's melodic approach shows he's studied the work of Keith Moon and Ringo. Eno and Daniel understand the give-and-take, the tension-and-release, that just a drummer and a guitarist can deliver. The new guys fit right in — there were songs where bassist Kuebler kit one note per chord change, and keyboardist Friend was spare as Daniel with his notes. I thought about all that, but in passing. I was shooting some photographs, I was occasionally writing in my notebook, but mostly I was jumping around, swimming in the sound, in the songs. Daniel may sing about love gone wrong and his career seeming to fall apart, about betrayal everywhere he turns, but what I hear is this indomitable spirit, this force of nature that won't back down. Britt Daniel is a man on a mission to rock your world. On Saturday night he was doing just that. He knew it, and he was smiling.

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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