Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sasha Gets Specific

A beautiful paragraph from Sasha Frere-Jones on the Austin band Spoon in last week's New Yorker. This is the sort of concrete, non-technical music criticism I mentioned in my first post, and hope to eventually get up here myself. Read the whole thing here, or just try this:
The first great Spoon song, “Waiting for the Kid to Come Out,” was released in 1997, when Daniel was twenty-five. The strategies that made it work are central to Spoon’s most successful tracks: reduction, precision, and confusion. The song starts with two guitar chords and sticks with them. Daniel plays only the chords’ bottom notes and doesn’t hit the strings very hard, providing enough notes to make the harmony clear, but no more. He begins the verse in a relaxed, conversational voice that is both clotted and grainy. “This is the electric lounge; no one’s afraid to laugh,” he mumbles, eliding the first “e” of “electric.” “They say, ‘C’mon, man, just let me break your back.’ ” The vowels in “laugh” and “back” are soft and long. (In an interview, Daniel attributed his vocal style to his experience in an elementary-school choir: “The way they taught us to sing was to sing like you’re British. Instead of ‘ar’ you say ‘ah.’ You don’t sing ‘car,’ you sing ‘cahhh.’ ”) Then the rest of the band—a bass player and a drummer—joins in; the drummer, Jim Eno, plays a two-bar solo that might be called a roll, if the word didn’t seem too extravagant for a maneuver consisting of so few hits. (It’s as if Eno were merely testing each drum in his kit.) The chorus introduces two new guitar chords, and Daniel shifts from talking to a more open-throated sound, though he doesn’t produce much in the way of melody until the end, when he sings the words “Let it bleed,” the title of a famous Rolling Stones album. The album has no obvious relevance to the song, which seems to describe a drug deal, except that Spoon shares the Stones’ affinity for both skeletal guitar rock and classic soul music.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

well, it's certainly clear; but it doesn't tell me why it's good.