Emerging inauspiciously in 1993 with a raw, post-Pixies sound before plotting one of the most distinctively creative courses in indie rock, Spoon has made a career of ignoring rules and trends, amassing a relatively dud-free discography in the process. Watching Spoon beat the odds has been a little like witnessing a child actor — precocious, sassy, ultimately disposable — transcend growing pains and emerge as a first class thespian of repute.
The bedrock of Spoon’s sound is the result of a long-running collaboration between drummer/engineer Jim Eno and guitarist/vocalist Britt Daniel, one of the more overlooked creative dyads in rock and roll. This partnership, which has more in common with that of Eno/Byrne than Jagger/Richards (but not much more), is a testimonial to a quintessentially democratic, holistic approach to rock and roll record-making. The albums that Eno and Daniel have produced together are clinics in subtlety and nuance, rendered even more fascinating by their ability to get hipsters unselfconsciously dancing and pogo-ing as if no one was watching. Spoon is perhaps the first indie rock band for whom headphone-listening is not only suggested, but mandatory. Their sound lies at the junction where classic rock and roll songwriting intersects with bold production choices and a uniquely experimental approach to mixing and arrangement, where even the deceptively straightest pop song is approached as a sort of gambit. Filtering their popist and rockist tendencies through dance music, soul, and especially dub, Spoon learned early on how to use the studio as an instrument, one that could be bent, manipulated, and exploited in innumerable combinations to creative ends, with no consideration given to attempting to ’recreate’ these experiments onstage. Very few bands have stubbornly indulged their own weirdness and emerged with a track record as strong or a fan-base as fiercely loyal (see comments section below, inevitably).
Though the band’s early efforts are spiky and tense, Spoon would quickly subtract some of the clutter, replacing it with an almost clinical ambience while still retaining classic rock’s nervy signifiers and indie rock’s tuff gnarl. Interestingly, the rock and roll interjections of “Oh yeah!” and “Come on!” seemed to only increase as the band moved further from anything resembling guitar rock.
If the following list counting down Spoon albums from worst to best hews close to the band’s own chronological output, it’s only because Spoon is the rare band that actually improves with age.
Start the Countdown here.