Review: ‘Spoon’

"My Mathematical Mind," which ended Spoon's set at the Avalon Tuesday night, could easily be the credo of the Austin, Texas, quartet. Singer-guitarist Britt Daniel assembles his songs like an engineer; he writes terse, repetitive grooves that interlock into cool, economical ones. The band doesn't waste a gesture onstage, either, running through 18 songs in an efficient hour and 15 minutes.

“My Mathematical Mind,” which ended Spoon’s set at the Avalon Tuesday night, could easily be the credo of the Austin, Texas, quartet. Singer-guitarist Britt Daniel assembles his songs like an engineer; he writes terse, repetitive grooves that interlock into cool, economical ones. They’re so streamlined, they feel aerodynamic. The band doesn’t waste a gesture onstage, either, running through 18 songs in an efficient hour and 15 minutes (plus a four-song encore).

It’s not as chilly as it might sound. On the band’s last few albums, including the just-released “Gimme Fiction” (Merge), Daniel offers clever melodies to go on top of his grooves. Snatches of the Kinks (the opening bars of “The Beast and Dragon, Adored” apes the intro of “Sunny Afternoon”), Talking Heads, various Motown songs (the rhythm section of “They Never Got You” recalls “You Keep Me Hanging On”), and the Beatles can be heard.

At times, Daniels’ voice can curl into a sneer that sounds uncannily like John Lennon’s (“Sister Jack” could be a lost “Revolver” outtake), while the disco lope and falsetto vocal of “I Turn My Camera On” could be a stripped-down version of the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You.”

The songs are put through their paces without ornament or instrumental showcase. Daniels doesn’t really solo; the closest he comes are the four bars of guitar noise during “Beast.”

Drummer Jim Eno keeps things from sounding too static by dropping in extra beats and fillips, adding two hi-hat beats to each chorus of “Fitted Shirt” and an extra tom slap on the verses of “Car Radio.” Bassist Josh Zarbo locks in with him for a rock-solid rhythm section. Eric Harvey adds spare but swinging keyboards.

At times, the music can sound too reductive — the songs often end abruptly — but the end result adds up to music that engages the body and mind.

Spoon will appear at Brooklyn’s Siren Festival on July 16.

Spoon

Avalon, Los Angeles; 1,500 capacity; $18.50

Production

Presented by Avalon Attractions and KCRW. Reviewed June 21, 2005.

Cast

Band: Britt Daniel, Jim Eno, Josh Zarbo, Eric Harvey.
Also appearing: Clientele.
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