The anticipation has been building for months for the first self-produced Spoon release. A fitting title, Transference, takes the listeners expectations of a highly produced Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007) to a more organic listen that echoes back to the band’s early days. A strong album to say the least, it has the same Spoon we love, but with new twists that make it a little darker, simpler, and grainy. Because it was self-produced, we get a more “Spoon-esque” listening experience, the way we imagine they want us to hear it.
But there is one thing that hinders the transfer of the electrifying “Spoon-esque” vibe: the lyrics.
Starting with the good… the self-production adds a crisp guitar and Jim Eno’s emphasized percussion leaves an overall more powerful sound than that which was found on Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. While Eric Harvey’s keyboard organs mixed with Daniel’s I dont know what love is anymore lyrics turn this album into a darker one.
But that’s where the album goes wrong. Lyrically, there seems to be a redundant theme. From “Written in Reverse” (Now the light bulbs gone off) to past favorite “Got Nuffin” (Got nothing to lose but darkness and shadows), to track names like Out With the Lights and I Saw the Light you get the picture.
Setting all lyrical redundancies aside, Spoon did try something new. However, I’m not sure it worked. Good Night Laura, possibly the first Spoon ballad, sounds like a bad mix between Paul McCartney and The Fray. It’s not an easy fit in the slightest, though you have to give them credit for trying something new just as long as they never do it again.
All things set aside, however, the production makes the album a must-listen. Starting off with a bang, the grasping introduction of Before Destruction cracks open with heavy, heavy guitar work, and the simple rhythms on emphasized drums become especially apparent in The Mystery Zone. In “Who Makes Your Money”, I questioned Daniel’s synthesized, distorted vocals and Harvey’s keyboard (like in most pop songs) that normally leave an album feeling over-produced, but it works with this song’s simple mix and adds to the eeriness of the vocals. Other clever touches, such as the abrupt endings on The Mystery Zone and Is Love Forever?, catch you off guard at first, but in hindsight are a nice change from the typical fade-outs.
If you’re able to turn the lights off in your head from thinking about the overuse of metaphors, Transference is a definite must-listen. For old-school enthusiasts, Trouble Comes Running and The Mystery Zone tug back on familiar Spoon sounds you know, while tracks like Who Makes Your Money skew left yet offer a taste of the new production elements. In other words, there’s a little here for everyone, but it’s likely we’ll be asking for seconds fairly soon.