Spoon's Gimme Fiction will surely prove to be one 2005's
finest albums. It finds resolve in confusion, clarity in imagery,
and most of all, finds truth in fiction.
The CD begins with "The Beast and Dragon, Adored". Here,
frontman Brit Daniel perfectly embodies the vocal growl of
John Lennon, as best heard in classic tracks like "I Am
the Walrus" and "Don't Let me Down". Musically, "Beast
and Dragon" starts off with only drums and piano-key strikes,
creating an eerie feeling of nervous solitude. As the song moves forward,
distorted, erratic guitars that echo Jeff Tweedy enter gradually
and abruptly with several auxiliary instruments. This dynamic adds
suspense and conflict, as the narrator travels on a sort of odyssey
from lone motel rooms to open seas, trying to "find the feeling
again". Whatever the feeling is, it's one that "don't come
cheap," and Daniel's "got to believe it come from rock n'
roll." The apocalyptic imagery of "Beast and Dragon's"
lyrics gives greater color to its sinister tone and quest-like motif.
Woven together, the above elements create a vivid depiction of one
man's battle to create a good, confident rock song. In a stroke of
brilliance, the depiction and conflict itself becomes that very song.
And so begins a magnificent album.
The next track, titled "The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine,"
continues in a similar vein. The song focuses on two fantasy lands;
one being the narrator's imagination, the other a film called The
Stranger Dance (and don't bother browsing for the film at your
local rental store, since it doesn't actually exist.) The hero of
this film is Monsieur Eddie Valentine. He's a knight who "gets
to swordfight the duke" and "kidnaps the queen." And
though he's portrayed as heroic, the film does not show Monsieur Valentine's
dark side. Only the narrator knows of the knights "blackheart
machine," and how he "makes love to the duke" and "swordfights
the queen" just before his show-stealing death. Though the track
seems a bit absurd in its dependence on utter fabrication, "Monsieur
Valentine" powerfully reveals a universal trait of human nature:
namely, the tendency of ordinary humans to base their identity in
"fictitious heroes," thereby confusing reality and fiction.
Basically, it's Fight Club with a melody and medieval twist.
Perhaps the album's most inventive song is "I Turn My Camera
On." This track is danceable, even disco. A repetitive bass-line
struts the song forward, as a funk-flavored guitar groove follows
casually along. Daniel's vocals sound totally different than anywhere
else on the album. Unlike the raw, Beatles-esque rasp, "Camera"
features Daniels best Prince impression; and a damn good one
"The Delicate Place" is a surprisingly straight forward
track. Here, Daniel sings of loss, heartache and the undying need
for intimacy. As his lyrics ask, "Have you got the answer/have
I yet won the part? Is this just your way/of breaking my heart?"
The song still has its share of lyrical obscurity. Yet, it doesn't
require as much digging. Still, "The Delicate Place" does
strike a nerve musically. The track starts off small, with only drums
and guitar strums. It builds after the first chorus, with cymbal rides
and a distorted schizoid of convention-breaking guitar solos thickening
the sound. The next track, "Sister Jack" translates the
lyrical simplicity of "Delicate" into its musical composition,
in turn creating the album's only straight-up rock n' roll song. The
lyrics, on the other hand, go from concretely understandable to simply
confusing. It begins by recalling a time when the narrator is "in
the drop D metal band we called Requiem." Regardless of its lyrical
confusion, this is an ass-kick catchy song, and would be perfect to
play during the end credits of a film.
The danceable funk of "Camera" returns on the track "Infinite
Pet," though spacey guitars and synths make for a more atmospheric
80's sound. The sound is fittingly coupled with the bizarre imagery
of the lyrics. As Spoon sings, "I sat back/I put my neckshirt
on/ resigned myself to the fate of the failed and the conned/Just
like the day I met the infinite pet." Such imagery paints an
indelible image of a character unsuccessfully battling against failure.
Though the songs mentioned are the standout tracks, Gimme Fiction
is a tremendous album from beginning to end. Spoon is a band of talent
and intrigue, crafting an album that not only promises widespread
popularity, but also one that's sure to be remembered for years to
come. Best of all, their ability to brew together the best of The
Beatles, Wilco and their own unique sound is not only commendable,
but authentically rock n' roll.
-Justin A. Stover
1. The Beast And Dragon, Adored
2. The Two Side of Monsieur Valentine
3. I Turn My Camera On
4. My Mathematical Mind
5. The Delicate Place
6. Sister Jack
7. I Summon You
8. The Infinite Pet
9. Was it You?
10. They Never Got You
11. Merchants of Soul
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