Spoon Kill the Moonlight

[Merge; 2002]

Styles: indie rock
Others: Guided by Voices, Interpol, Pavement, Pixies, Elvis Costello

Kill the Moonlight is the quintessential display of rock mediocrity. After the emotionally cathartic Girls Can Tell (2001), Spoon is back with an album that is slightly  less engaging and less interesting. Granted, the album is distinctively different, so comparing to past albums is not the best way to go about judging the album. But the music on Kill the Moonlight bares little emotional impact, leaving a dry batch of songs that would work better if they weren't trying so hard to sound different than the songs off its predecessor.

If Girls Can Tell replaced musical ferocity for musical transcendence, Kill the Moonlight replaces musical intelligence with musical meditation. The songs come off too calculated and too reliant on the studio for its charm. Some really interesting sounds do make their way on to the album, but they are more of a shtick that sets the album from previous releases. Experimenting with reverb, delays, and other processed goodies, the band fails to provide anything that creates a palpable emotion. You feel as if the sounds are ultimately there to draw attention away from the fact that these songs have the dynamic range of an Oasis song and the emotive reflection of a ghost.

The sounds are definitely used sparingly, but sparingly does not always mean tastefully. Many songs actually sound like an updated "Savoy Truffle" or a less intense "Helter Skelter," which wouldn't be a negative if they had used the style only once or twice, but many of the songs have the same raw, driving demeanor that becomes a weak crutch for the band, and they end up sounding less believable with each passing minute.

However, of all that went wrong on the album, "Paper Tiger" proves to be Spoon's most brilliant song (which account for three-fourths of the rating). Yes, the song is that good. It's a minimalist ditty that does not pretend to be anything but that. With orchestral swells, reversed effects, rim clicks, piano chords, and a haunting vocal melody, the song stands out high above the rest.

It seems Spoon is at its best when they either go all the way or don't go at all. "Paper Tiger" shows the band going all the way; they didn't try to make it a hard rocking song, when if you strip down all the counterpoints it is nothing but a vocal melody and small percussive sounds. But the elements used are essential to the entire makeup of the song, whereas the rest of the songs try to flourish themselves with asinine bells & whistles, waddling back and forth between intricacy and simplicity, but ultimately come off sub par at best. Hopefully the follow-up will show Spoon jump in the pool rather than a mere dipping of its toe.

1. Small Stakes
2. The Way We Get By
3. Something to Look Forward To
4. Stay Don't Go
5. Jonathon Fisk
6. Paper Tiger
7. Someone Something
8. Don't Let It Get You Down
9. All the Pretty Girls Go to the City
10. You Gotta Feel It
11. Back to the Life
12. Vittorio E.