I own only one other Spoon album, 1999's brilliant Series of Sneaks
, so I wasn't even close to being prepared for the radical change that the band's sound has undergone in the last three years. For those who, like me, have been somewhat out of the loop, I'll elaborate: Spoon has moved to a four-man lineup and has begun leaning heavily on piano and other keyboard instruments. At points, Britt Daniel and company are channeling Squeeze, Papas Fritas, and even the more interesting side of Elton John, and slapping it together with the band's well-developed sense of unrefined pop deconstruction.
Song for song, this is a fantastic release, even if I still find myself yearning for a kick-ass track like "30 Gallon Tank" (to be fair, Moonlight's "Jonathon Fisk" rocks nearly as hard). The complexity and depth of the songs has increased; the band sounds less like they're trying to channel The Pixies, and more like they're reaching toward the sublime.
The stylistic variation is part of what makes this such a tremendously interesting album. Take, for example, the opener, "Small Stakes": from beginning to end, it's nothing but tension, with little or no release. As the keyboard and an insistent tambourine combine with a low, Doors-style keyboard bass, Daniel demonstrates his growing lyrical chops: "Small time danger in your midsize car / I don't dig the Stripes but I'll go for Har Mar / The big innovation on the minimum wage / Is lines up your nose but your life on the page so c'mon / Tell me I'm wrong." In addition to following the hallowed rock and roll tradition of props to your buds/disses to your foes, this line proves that Mr. Daniel has been honing his lyrical abilities, even as he drives his band in ever-different directions.
There's straight-ahead piano rock on "The Way We Get By" and "Someone Something", while "You Gotta Feel It" brings in a low-end sax sound to lend a hint of Motown to the proceedings. The excellent "Back To The Life" is replete with backward and/or pitch-bent strings, boot-stomp drum machines, artificial handclaps and maracas. "Stay Don't Go" uses the old Flaming Lips trick of exhalation-as-rhythm-tracking to produce another masterpiece of tension, blissed out with a cool Fender Rhodes piano.
These twelve tracks last just over thirty-four minutes; it's not that Spoon doesn't have much to say, but that they don't take too long to make a point. Stylistically diverse, lyrically poignant, joyfully experimental, and instantly likeable, Kill The Moonlight is one more rung on the ladder of Spoon's climb to greatness.