I must confess I don’t know where I have been living in the past years (and with whom, but this is a different story).
I must have inhabited a parallel world. Fact is that despite 2000 CDs bought, 400 concerts seen and 350 bands photographed I haven’t listened to Spoon until few months ago. I know what you are thinking, but that is it, I am honest.
Since the press started to talk about Transference, Spoon‘s new album released earlier this year, I didn’t own any of the Spoon records. They are not few, 7 LP to date. Now that I got their almost complete discography, and over 50 quid less in my account, I can recognize I knew some of their songs but didn’t even know they were from them.
There is a good thing in that. I love discovering new bands from the latest release and going back to the previous ones. Is one of those rare cases when any album is a new album. The opinion on the discography is fair and I don’t meet the difficulty of listening to a new release making the comparison with the old favourites listened many times.
Spoon comes from Austin, Texas not from Mars, so it must be me being an unaware Venusian. They formed in the mid of the nineties, not yesterday. They recorded 7 albums not an EP and started being recognized, even by Billboard charts (but not by me, clearly) at the beginning of the last decade.
When I heard Transference I was stuck by its directness, by the honesty of the songwriting, the direct approach to the sound. It is as live recording, a tape demo, a piece of work without too much production yet impeccably produced.
I asked a friend, from which album I should have continued my journey through the oddest name in rock history. He said Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga which is the previous one, 2007. A matter of minutes, receiving the Amazon envelop, slipping the CD in the player, sitting on a sofa it took the time of Don’t Make Me a Target to start to get to the enlightenment.
The time the CD played a couple of times I ordered the previous three in a single go.
Gimme Fiction, 2005, attracted me for a title I Turn My Camera On which later I’ll discover it was the single.
Its electronic riff couldn’t stop me sympathizing with the key concept in the main strophe “I turn my camera on… I turn my feelings off”. Brilliant.
Even the more stripped down Kill the Moonlight is a gem that appeared on position 19th of Pitchfork list of the best 200 album of the 00s and I got Girls Can Tell too, another Pitchfork favourite (96th) and pick of their discography for Allmusic, which I would question. The band seems to agree with me, they will leave it completely out of the songs’ selection.
There is no point to go back in time and reviewing the albums one by one. They are all constantly excellent and many people are better than me on the internet. There is a recent wonderful article on the Guardian: Are Spoon the best band of the past 10 years? which is worth reading.
My virgin approach to Spoon discography made me conclude, easily, that Transference not only stands next to their great discography but that Spoon quality, quite rare in music, keeps improving year after year, CD after CD.
Spoon have that rare gift to be good at writing rock songs and not at being rockstars. Humble and dedicated they arrive to London Electric Ballroom to present Transference live and I pushed hard to find a way to be in with my cameras.
Guess what? The show opens with that Don’t Make me a Target which caused my enlightenment on the sofa. What a start, I almost wasted the first 4 minutes of my photoset to listen to the song. It followed with Mistery Zone, another favourite, one of the masterpieces included in Transference. Such a cool funky (in the good sense) bass line was unheard since Prince’s Signs of the times. The Beast And Dragon, Adored opens Gimme Fiction and closes my three song slot for the photo.
I am almost happy to have to stop shooting. I step on the Electric Ballroom small landing to have a better view. Half of the White Rabbit (the brilliant band supporting who Britt Danielhas produced) are watching the gig with me.
My Mathematical Mind and the Ghost of You Lingers add keyboards to the mix then Britt takes the guitar back to the front with the riff of Is Love Forever?
I may not have the answer to the particularly complicate question in this particularly complicate moment, but I can tell that the riff is one for which Josh Homme would reform QOTSA. Spoon don’t exceed in testosterone and keep the tune in that perfect balance that only alternative American rock can create. I have a request, I want Pavement to call them for their ATP, please.
Don’t you Evah (and You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb few songs later) cause sing along, telling (me) that Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is the reference album for the fans. Small Stakes the opener of Kill The Moonlight introduces a cover of the Damned’s: Love song, not sure I know the original.
The songs add to the setlist mainly from their last 4 albums in a mixed order. It makes perfect sense since the band is such in an idyllic period they could play the entire discography in shuffle mode.
They’re focused, tight, passionate in their anti-rockstar personas. It’s all about the music and they are such great musicians.
Not only Britt, I am impressed by the rhythm session with, Jim Eno is one of the best drummer I heard live since Tortoise. Tonight there is no show off though, Spoon rock is just pure, essential, no frills.
There’s no highlight throughout, just a long persistent high from start to end. They Never Got You, I Summon You, Ryhthm & Soul. It is amazing the quality of the songs, there’s nothing special though they all sound very special. Perfect.
Got Nuffin’ is the umpteenth killer riff (and the single from Transcendence) and the closure slows down for Black Like Me which hits hard at the heart when Britt sings “I’m in need of someone to take care of me tonight”.
No time to get sad, the four songs encore, again one from each of the last four albums starts with The Underdog that sounds even better without the brasses appearing on the album. I notice that it opens with “Picture yourself…” as Mystery Zone. Curious.
Nobody Gets Me But You and I Turn My Camera On are another sample of the more synth(etic) side of Spoon. When I tought the gig was finished, another song arrives. It is Jonathan Fisk, I’ll discover on Songkick later at home.
Rarely I have been transported by a gig as this one for a band that I have been knowing for such a short time. Spoon can well be my latest discovery but they already rank high among my favourites bands ever and are clearly one of the best band you can stumble upon at present.
Look at the pictures and you can guess easily the tip here, I write this since I am the first that should be reading it. Check and clean the lenses!
Working on digital would have helped seeing the reflections on the shots straight in the monitor after the first shots, fact is that my lovely 35mm f1.4 lens had some sort of liquid (?) on the front lens that allowed the light to refract (refract? reflect?, don’t know) creating flares in the frame.
Curiously, reflections don’t always look bad and sometime they even look cool, but the unpredictability of them doesn’t help so if it is possible to avoid them I’d go for it.
What to do is simple, before the concert start have a look at the front and rear lens and be sure nothing is there that shouldn’t be.
Small dust particles are not a problem, especially on the front of long lenses, but wideangles must be clean since the longer depth of field would create problems that can be visible in the image. anything on the rear lens of a wideangle is a potential danger.
Best is to use one of those clean dry tissue made on purpose to clean lenses which should be always in your bag. Multicoating is a delicate chemical film deposited on your front lens on several layer to reduce reflections. The less you touch it with improper material the better. Scratching it would deteriorate the lens quality.
If you are in an emergency a T-shirt can save your work, just check it’s clean.
Don’t use any liquid, don’t blow (you will end up spitting on it), and before using the tissue/t-shirt to clean the lens, be sure there are not solid particles that would make more damage if scratched all over.