Spoon - Transference (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Transference (2010)


Spoon is a relentlessly cool band. Its songs are groovy affairs. Listening to them is like dancing with a mysterious stranger who moves with a confidence both seductive and dangerous. It is not hard to imagine everyone in the band wearing leather jackets and sunglasses at all times, cigarettes dangling uncommitted from their expressionless faces as they casually walk to the next party, fully aware that all eyes are on them but making no notice of the attention.

Here's the thing about cool, though: It don't keep you warm at night. Sure, everyone wants to be cool, but man cannot live on cool alone, you know? Man needs soul, man needs something more substantial, less detached, more true to that intangible, indescribable core of human nature that gives power to the pop songs that can move people--change people.

Spoon is occasionally capable of achieving this zen-like level of pop mastery while maintaining their aloof, Fonzie-esque aesthetic. Their last full-length, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, an album so dripping with effortless perfection on a song-by-song level that it almost seemed like the band wasn't even trying, was a modern classic that could stand both as a touchstone of modern hipness and a piece of near-flawless alternative for the stadium-minded.

Transference, however, is not so much a cosmic success as it is a cool fucking album. So, if you were looking for another car-ride life changer this time around, you'll be let down.

Still, there's nothing wrong with a good headphones album, and this album is certainly that. There is a lot to take in, from the echo-y bass-and-piano grove of "Mystery Zone" to the meandering, jammy guitar of "I Saw the Light." Production-wise, the band is back on their studio experimentation BS (à la 2002's Kill the Moonlight), focusing less on rocking like a hurricane and more on layering their rock songs with as much cool shit as they can think of.

It makes for an interesting listen, no doubt, but a more detached one, as the band wants to keep the listener at arms length instead of fully drawing them in for the big rock and roll bear hug.

There is one track that bridges the gap between studio knob-fiddling and full on emotional rocking, however, and that song is "Trouble Comes Running." "Trouble Comes Running" is fucking awesome. It's a quiet little rocker with a goofy mix, so the guitar is pushed higher than the rest of the song and the drums are kind of lo-fi and canned. All this means is that the song sounds interesting as well as emotionally satisfying.

Transference doesn't swing for the fences and it doesn't strive to capture anyone's heart. It is fine to be another solid addition to an already solid (and occasionally perfect) catalog of mercilessly cool music. Get your sunglasses on, motherfucker.