New Music Heaven : Spoon

July 8, 2019
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How many rock bands from the past 25 years could get away with a greatest-hits album? Spoon stand alone, with a career-spanning retrospective culled from all over their unique songbook. It’s a flawless compilation of their best-known, best-loved tunes, yet it’s still full of surprises—the only thing you could expect from a band that’s spent their whole career taking people by surprise. 

“The idea of doing a best-of came to us a couple times,” Britt Daniel says. “First I wasn’t sure how I felt about it but at some point I remembered that when I got my first Cure record it was Standing on a Beach. When I got my first New Order record, it was Substance. That was how I met those bands, and I moved backwards from there but I still listen to those comps. I love a greatest hits LP when it’s done well. It can be a thing unto itself.”

If you were the betting type in 1996, and you were taking odds on which bands would still be on top of their game in 2019—still thriving, creating, evolving, sitting on top of a catalog so rich it could produce a compilation like this—it’s safe to say you could have bought a house betting a quarter on Spoon. They did not seem the likeliest band to make history. Yet they’ve achieved this by refusing to concede a thing to fashion, refusing to pander, declining to repeat themselves, resisting the impulse to play it safe. When they dropped Kill the Moonlight in 2002, it already seemed bizarre this underdog band had turned out to be so freakishly prolific and creative. But Spoon were just getting started. They have kept going their own way, moving past their original blueprint and building something new one album at a time.

When you hear Spoon has a greatest-hits record, you instantly think of your pet favorites. Every fan would assemble a totally different lineup—that’s the beauty of it. They’ve built the kind of ridiculously vast catalog where people love to argue for hours over their favorite highlights. Are you a Girls Can Tell diehard or a Transference cultist? Do you prefer Gimme Fiction or Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga? Hot Thoughts? They Want My Soul? As Daniel says, “To me it's all about albums. A great song is a thing in itself but we were always thinking about the album: the pace, where it starts, where it goes, where it ends up. That's the highest that you can shoot for in my book. We never wanted to put a record out that had any filler.”

Certain artists like Al Green, Blondie or Creedence spend years making individual albums that stand up as fully realized works of art—but they spawn a perfect greatest-hits record that makes its own statement. That’s the classic level Spoon are on here. So how did this complex and diverse string of albums boil down to one disc? “Honestly, it was a struggle,” Daniel says. “I was listening to the old records and jotting down the songs—if you wanna turn the volume up, that's a good sign. The list really got whittled down, so these are the best. ‘I Summon You’ was never a huge song, wasn’t for the radio, but it had to be on there. It’s one of the best things we’ve done. I wanted to represent Transference, even though it's not really a ‘hit’ type of album—‘Got Nuffin’ was the closest thing. It did get to a point where I started feeling like, ‘We gotta represent this album in some way, we've gotta represent this change in some way.’ ‘Everything Hits at Once’ was a turning point for us—a minimal new wave soul type of rock song.’”

“No Bullets Spent” is a brand new song that shows a band in full creative forward momentum—with its staccato rhythms and spooky film-noir guitar, it’s clearly recognizable as Spoon, but just as clearly a step into the future. It's produced by Mark Rankin, from recent recording sessions pointing to the band's upcoming album. It’s a fitting way to end a so-far summary from restless musicians who don’t look back because they’re too busy trying out new tricks.

That’s part of what makes this a classic greatest-hits album—we will keep arguing over the selections for years to come. “It’s a small collection trying to cover a lot of years, but I hope it does what The Singles record by the Pretenders or Hot Rocks did for me—cover a lot of ground and then if you want to find out more, you can find out more.” It’s a conversation starter, like any great group’s best-of should be. But it’s also a map to the work of a band that’s still full of surprises—and more yet to come. 

We'll be playing "No Bullets Spent" all week on 94/7. When you hear it, text HOT or NOT to 44624 to let us know what you think! As always, 94/7 Nation members will get a free download of the song in their inbox.