‘Transference‘ can be used to describe the redirection of emotions to a substitute, like a patient venting bottled-up emotions from their childhood to a therapist. This might describe the emotional core of the album, but a more physical interpretation of the word is the simple action of transferring one thing to another. It’s a tangible process, and what’s so admirable about this album is the way they allow you to understand and feel that assemblage in it’s entirety. The only thing really missing from this brilliant effort are the hooks. Even ‘Written in Reverse’, the album’s tent-pole song, isn’t gonna let you off that easy. Britt Daniel’s vocals, as he belts “I’m not standing there...”, still sounds like a build-up to a payoff that’s uniquely absent.
There are moments, like in the simplistic, heart-felt ‘Good Night, Laura’ where the power and emotion behind the song is catapulted by the inclusion of human elements. The creaking sound of someone shifting in their chair is left in. A wrong key played on the piano reminds us that there’s somebody playing it. That somebody’s not always perfect and practiced. Would it be the same song to this Laura he’s singing to if that wasn’t the case?
‘Got Nuffin’ is the second and only other example of a classic take-to-the-streets rocker. Somehow, Britt Daniel’s voice just pumps energy and soul and the momentous percussion on this song sounds like it may have put some holes in the drum kit. Other tracks take a less conventional approach, never quite arriving at any hook-line-and-sinker climax. And this approach works for Spoon. They prove that they can write thoughtful and engaging music without that easy, fist-pounding chorus. Some of the best tracks like the haunting ‘Who Makes Your Money’ and ‘Nobody Gets Me But You’ are intentionally left as incomplete thoughts. Instead, those payoffs are found by the thoughtful listener in the details.
Take the opening track ‘Before Destruction’ which opens with only a drum-line and the mechanical buzzing of a guitar. It starts us out like we’re moving down an assembly line; each instrument coming in to do its job, uniquely separate from the proceeding instrument. When Britt’s voice punches in it sounds distant and echoed, like it were recorded in a bathroom. The next time that guitar buzzes in, Britt’s voice sharpens into a clear focus. In the age of indiscriminate auto-tuning and effect, the band’s restrained attention to detail is the grand payoff here. The raw, unpolished noise is present for you to appreciate before and after its evolution. That moment when the finished product suddenly pulls together is now a moment of beauty that can be appreciated even after the cut leaves the mixing room.