Album Review: Spoon ‘Transference’

It will come as no great surprise that ‘Transference’ feels very familiar upon first listen.

For one thing, Spoon have never really tried to revolutionise their own sound- they are comfortable with the music they make, and therefore there’s no real reason to change it. This is evident in ‘Transference’, where Spoon’s trademark sound is immediately recognisable. Add to this the fact that most Spoon fans will have already fervently hunted down live versions of  many of the songs on ‘Transference’, and what you have is a very familiar new album.

Due for release on January 19th, Transference can be streamed in its entirety from NPR.

Spoon are of course mainstream media’s favourite indie rock artist. Their sound is accessible while at the same time unmistakably ‘alternative’. They are in many respects the band that everybody loves to love.

And ‘Transference’ will not change this one bit. Before Destruction, the opener, may throw the listener off slightly: with a very washed-out vibe, it sounds as if it was recorded in a garage somewhere with very cheap production equipment. However it is but a brief prologue, and Spoon’s more slick production style is immediately evident in Is Love Forever?, with a driving guitar beat heralding the true arrival of the album, in a way very reminiscent to the beginning of Don’t Make Me A Target on ‘Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga’. Likewise The Mystery Zone wouldn’t feel out of place on any of Spoon’s previous albums.

However, upon repeated listens, ‘Transference’ begins to reveal a bit more.

Lead single Got Nuffin, which is the only song on ‘Transference’ that displays Spoon’s typical use of colloquial language as song titles, features Britt Daniel crooning “I’ve got nothing to loose… but darkness and shadows”. This is perhaps fitting, as there is definitely some darkness seeping into ‘Transference’ that was not evident in previous Spoon efforts.

And perhaps this goes some way to explain why this album is so captivating, despite being so recognisable. For all the familiarity of ‘Transference’, there are subtle differences to other Spoon efforts, and it is these subtle differences that make this a great album rather than a clinical one. It would be too easy for Spoon to write another ‘Kill The Moonlight’, and indeed very few people would complain if they did, but that isn’t what they have done. Goodnight Laura for example is a glitch in the matrix; a gorgeous piano ballad/lullaby, but yet is ultimately anguished rather than hopeful. This is a fairly new shade of grey for Spoon.

Likewise I Saw The Light, despite the title, is at first a restrained and unmistakably heavy effort, before kicking into a two-minute keyboard interlude that builds slowly into a dramatic climax to the song, alleviating all the tension caused by the start. And this is what you have to love about Spoon: they are all about the shades of grey. Their music is that of subtle rock n’ roll, where no hook is overdone and no riff is reused.

Trouble Comes Running is one of the best songs on the album, with an almost grunge beginning that breaks out seamlessly into Britt Daniel’s vocals which are, as always, impeccable. Meanwhile the last song on ‘Transference’, Nobody Gets Me But You, is another standout track, subtly adding layers upon layers of sound as it progresses over five minutes.

And this closing track is a good representation of the album in its entirety. Above all else, this is a complex, heavy album by Spoon. But yet ‘Transference’ is special because it achieves this without losing any familiarity, which is in itself a phenomenal effort. It is an album full of contradictions: familiar yet different, dark yet jubilant, complex yet minimalistic at times, heavy yet elegant.

It is an subtly adventurous album that will not isolate a single fan.

As you can probably tell by the fact that this review started with me saying how familiar the album sounds and is ending with me saying how it is different to other Spoon efforts, ‘Transference’ still has me a bit baffled. This is the beauty of it however: it is a record that demands repeated listens, and will reveal more with each one. It is a subtle album full of shades of grey, but it is familiar and likeable as well. It is a captivating, mesmerising, intriguing release.

But after all, it is a Spoon album: it was never exactly going to be bad.

Album Rated: 8/10

Listen To: Goodnight Laura, Trouble Comes Running, I Saw The Light, Nobody Gets Me But You.

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