Spoon - "Transference" [Album Review]

When I first listened to Transference from beginning to end, I was perplexed and pissed off. What had happened to all of the catchy songs from 2008's critical and commercial success Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga? Everything about Spoon's seventh album seemed to ignore all of the great strides that 2008 album took to reach mainstream audiences while keeping the band's sound intact.

...but then I listened to the album one more time. Then again. Throughout the week I would continuously listen to it. Before I knew it, Transference grew on me and I realized just how immensely clever the Texas band truly was.

Just because I learned to love Transference doesn't mean I didn't miss the upbeat fun of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. The majestic marching-band-on-every-track album was just too epic to ignore and made Spoon a force to be reckoned with in the indie scene. The large amount of success that album enjoyed makes this new direction seem even more peculiar.

Transference is scaled down, gritty, and works as the antithesis to the aforementioned 2008 album. Actually this album could probably be considered more as alternative garage rock rather than indie for a good chunk of the tracks. Songs like "Written In Reverse" and "Got Nuffin" are stripped down with only a few odd editing tricks thrown in at random.

Then there is the indie side of the record: "Trouble Comes Running" is a fantastic upbeat song that is clearly very indie (despite a prominent true-to-sound guitar). Another thoroughly indie track is "Out Go The Lights", a beautiful song that has the best delivery by frontman Britt Daniel of the entire album. "Is Love Forever?" is yet another catchy and odd indie song that helps maintain the balance of the record.

This part is where things went from frustrating to fascinating: there is indeed a third type of music found in Transference which could be called many things but what I would simply label as 'alternative'. Opening track "Before Destruction" is a strong foreshadowing of the variety of music found, featuring heavy echoes and a sprawling instrumental section that switches abruptly between the high tops of drums to a down tempo acoustic guitar until the two are brought together for the end. A few songs later and you find "Who Makes Your Money?" which has an odd reverb-based chorus and likens the song to many 70s-era psychedelic records. "I Saw The Light" starts out as an indie song but slowly deteriorates into a sinister piano melody that rebuilds itself into yet another funky experimentation with guitars and reverb.

Throughout all of these 'alternative' songs there is one common characteristic: "unfinished" editing. Layers on top of songs stop abruptly, effects only appear on one speaker side or erratically jump between the two, and the aforementioned use of random reverb. When I had heard these songs and linked it with the news that the band had self-produced this album, I thought Transference was just poorly put together. But as Transference begins to tighten its grip on you, the editing begins to become rational and, in a way, organic; the band wanted to trigger an instinctual response from the listener.

After I realized that I was pretty much being messed around with by the album, I learned to appreciate this cool little gimmick. Transference essentially teaches you to ignore your instincts and that even the seemingly out of place are actually completely natural. And that is how I feel about the album: it's weird, vaguely familiar but completely off and yet I have somehow grown accustomed to it.

Spoon is easily one of the most intelligent bands working in the industry today and while the album definitely takes more than one listen to appreciate, Transference is a mysterious and unapologetic triumph


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