GIMME FICTION, Recut from original masters, 2021 Repress: 180G Red&White Vinyl LP, Matador OLE1552LP
For more than five years and three albums, Spoon have occupied the weird purgatory between being one of the largest names in indie rock and barely-there mainstream recognition-- big enough to see print in Time (for Kill the Moonlight), but not big enough for that magazine's 30-and-up demographic to care. From their earliest flirtations with Elektra, Spoon were a dark horse in an industry that values the easily, tritely categorized; every album was a shift in sound, subtly tweaking prior formulas, distilling an already minimal sound into something even more distant. So far the refinement is evident, and they've followed success with even more success because, ratios aside, Spoon's intrinsic elements have never changed. Head-first, maximum R'n'B and tense, shuffling rhythms back Britt Daniel's unparalleled vocals and despite constant re-invention, Spoon remain, inimitably, Spoon.
Understandably then, Gimme Fiction succeeds for the same reasons, but that doesn't mean it's a step forward. Instead, Spoon return to more familiar territory-- some of which they haven't glimpsed since Soft Effects EP-- by pushing guitars back to the front occasionally, kicking out big 4/4 anthems, and leaning on some heavy rock piano to create a brooding, anxious album that's superficially more straightforward than anything they've done in years. For better or worse, Kill the Moonlight is a tough act to follow; after pushing their sound to its stripped-down limit, anything less than a further push into the frontier sounds like compromise, but, as Daniel howls on "The Beast and Dragon, Adored", "If you believe, they call it rock and roll". It all depends on your perspective.
Gimme Fiction is actually a wildly diverse album, almost schizophrenic in its composition, vacillating between acoustic ballads, a bubbly, synth-tinged number ("They Never Got You"), handclaps, strings, and a whole lot of blue-eyed soul. It feels like rock action only because the album's finest moments-- for the most part-- are in the sublime climaxes of guitar-driven tunes, notably the heart-swelling, tambourine-ringing relief of "Sister Jack" or the beautifully spare "I Summon You". But calling them "rock songs" feels like an oversimplification: The term implies a simplicity that just isn't present even in the most direct offerings on Gimme Fiction. -Pitchfork