5. A Series Of Sneaks (1998)

Following the superb and crucial Soft Effects EP (mercifully tacked onto the 2-disc reissue of Telephono), Spoon signed to Elektra for a brief, notoriously grim major label tryst. Elektra A&R Ron Laffitte quit four months into the press campaign for A Series Of Sneaks, leaving the band with no advocate at a label that hadn’t the foggiest idea what to do with them. Spoon would eventually respond by immortalizing their major label pied piper with a pair of humorous, biting songs with titular puns on Laffitte’s name (both songs are included on later pressings of A Series Of Sneaks). While it’s possible, in hindsight, to imagine a major label banking on songs like “Guestlist / the Execution” (how far was this from the Toadies or The Presidents of the United States of America, really?), it’s difficult to imagine the brass at Elektra believing that this cryptic, oblique, weird fucking record was going to be the next Nevermind. Though A Series of Sneaks, like Telephono, may lack the atmosphere of the Spoon we’ve come to know and love, and its structural density can be a tad overbearing, it nevertheless contains some great songs: album closer “Advance Cassette” evokes both the soused irascibility and wide-angle balladry of Archers of Loaf; “30 Gallon Tank,” is a delightful ruckus of jarring guitar pandemonium and motorik drums; and the cheap organ sounds and home-recorded ambience of the great “Metal Detektor” point the direction of a more autonomous, more confidently strange Spoon to come.

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