Austin band Spoon’s new record sounds like Elvis Costello, Led Zeppelin, The Smiths, early Bruce Springsteen, and The Replacements. That’s my list; your’s could be entirely different. A hundred people will hear echoes of a hundred different bands in this amazing, wooly hodgepodge of a rock album. Like Versus’ Two Cents Plus Tax and Wilco’s Being There, Girls Can Tell is a record that embraces the entire scope of the sixties rock diaspora.
At times Spoon appears to be on some sort of public works genre reclamation project. And in lesser hands an album this diverse could have come off as high concept wankery. But dammit if they don’t deliver these songs straight up. The arrangements, the instrumentation, all the thousands of choices that go into creating a rock record, suggest that Spoon is comfortable in their warehouse of musical styles.
What holds it all together is singer Britt Daniels’ voice. He can go soul man; he can go crooner — he even goes Kurt Cobain and you won’t mistake him for Silverchair — but always with a subtle aggression that is very un-indie rock, like Elvis Costello only more sincere. And like Elvis Costello he’s a sharp lyricist and songwriter. His songs manage to be specific, intelligent and, above all, catchy. The choruses leap out, usually in the first thirty seconds of the song.
At 36 minutes, Girls Can Tell packs more hooks than most bands fit into their entire discography; which can be exhausting at times, a bit like drinking from a firehose. The best approach is to just pay attention and take it in slowly. This is truly one of the most intense pop records since This Year’s Model.