Merge, 2007

It’s almost an established fact that once a band hits album number 4 or 5 they’re practically running on empty. Creative juices have all but dried up, different directions are attempted, band friction comes to the fore and as the years go by each new release just isn’t a patch on former glories. There are of course, the anomalies, the bands who seem to have an inverse relationship to this theory. Spoon, thankfully, happen to be one of those bands. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (to be said quickly) is album number 6 from this Austin, Texas (now Portland, Oregon) quintet and all-round faux punx/gentlemen dudes.

“Don’t Make a Target” is frontman Britt Daniel at his most direct, pounding his fists and venting a little Texan frustration at the Bush administration. It’s an obvious opener, carrying that classic Spoon jerky guitar/pounding piano motif, sounding like it could’ve easily appeared on 2005’s Gimme Fiction. Politics in pop ain’t my thing, but if you allow your ears to get lazy, it almost sounds like he’s singing “Don’t Make Me Retarded” which works for me too. The haunting ambience of “The Ghost of You Lingers” is the sound of too much prescription medication and nights alone, the two disparate voices weaving through a shuddering soundtrack, pining for the familiar and oozing nervous anxiety.

“You Got Yr Cherry Bomb” is the flipside of “Lingers”, coming across all suave and self-assured, handclaps, tambourines and ooh-ooh vocals, talking about how you cut yourself loose from your lady and then admonishing her for not letting go. It’s a charming metaphor, but it makes you wonder if there’s an aggrieved lady out there who’s listening through gritted teeth. “Don’t You Evah” is the only song not penned by Britt Daniel, coming via defunct Brooklyn band The Natural History who Spoon befriended. This song, along with “Rhythm and Soul” and “Eddie’s Raga” form the crux of the album and also highlight just how far Spoon have evolved away from being a straight-out guitar led rock band. “Eddie’s Raga” takes this one step further with it’s reverb heavy dub reggae groove.

Britt on-stage at London’s Borderline last month confided to the packed crowd that the Jon Brion-produced single “The Underdog” was almost left off the album, and I can see why, as its bright, swinging mariachi feel and positive candour detracts from the dark and edgy stance of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. It’s not without its merits, most of all highlighting what an asset drummer Jim Eno is to this band. Closer “Black Like Me” is Britt walking home in busted shoes, asking for someone to take care of him, offering this quasi-ballad in return as night falls. It’s got that lazy Kinks feel to it, all acoustic guitar and percussion until the drums rise up and the playful piano segues into the Beatles “A Day in the Life”. It’s a perfect closer to one of the finest albums by Spoon to date and one of the best albums you’ll hear all year.