Thursday, September 3, 2009

Album Of The Week: Spoon- Kill The Moonlight

My current favorite writer is Charles Bukowski, a man who is perhaps best known for being an alcoholic and womanzier but should be known for how stripped down and yet still poignant his writing could be. In his own words: "a poet is a man who says a complex thing in a simple way." What's more, Bukowski's writing teaches you that simplicity doesn't mean "simple" in the pejorative sense of the word. His prose was sparse but certain lines strike home more than a thousand words of a more ornate author.

Kill The Moonlight has always struck me as the most curious album for Spoon to receive their best ratings on. It's a stripped down, minimalist album that makes use of as few instruments as possible at one time while still keeping Spoon's patented knack for catchy songwriting and rhythmic rock music. But like Bukowski's writing, it does a lot with very little. The punk rock of 'Jonathon Fisk' is a bit of red herring, since my memories of the album end up revolving around minimalist drum, voice, and keyboard based songs like the sublime 'Paper Tiger', the strutting 'All The Pretty Girls Go To The City' (with its brilliant wordless vocals that Britt Daniels spouts at regular intervals), and the rightfully popular 'The Way We Get By.' Rarely does a band manage to do so much with so little, and with such a short run time. It's as if every instrument, even the vocals, is used as much as a rhythm maker as it is a melody maker, from the Beatles-esque pianos to the chunky, rock solid guitar chording to the expressive but often staccato/punctuated singing. Sure, Spoon has always made use of these things, but when you spend most of the album in a room with what feels like just Britt Daniels's vocals, some drumming, and either a guitar or piano (but rarely both), it seems much more obvious and excellent.

To be honest, though, since Spoon's longest album is 43 minutes, I think Kill The Moonlight is unfairly criticized and/or praised for being their shortest and tightest album. In fact, I personally enjoy Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga the most of all their albums. But no Spoon album is as stripped down and unfettered as Kill The Moonlight. No sound, instrument, or second is wasted. While I do think other Spoon albums boast better songs, Kill The Moonlight is the single best package Spoon issued this decade and a compelling case for how less is often better than more.

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