Kill The Moonlight
By: Eric Greenwood
This Austin quartet channels its wellspring of melody and angst into such perfect pop songs that it sounds like a brand new art form. I kid you not. Kill The Moonlight is a scaled-back rock record, wherein each song is a skeleton, but Spoon makes every second count, filling the gaps with ace production and subtle effects. Britt Daniel has transformed into such a confident singer, and his cocksure attitude makes his songs utterly believable and enduring.
I just can't get over how good every single song is. The opening track, "Small Stakes" builds upon a jubilantly repetitive organ riff while Daniel, drenched in reverb, belts out his class warfare with persuasive aplomb. The much more musical "The Way We Get By" is so jaunty and catchy it's absurd. The piano riff underscores Daniel's ragged vocals perfectly. His everyman persona is quick-witted and clever: "we get high in backseats of cars/we put faith in our concerns/fall in love to down on the street/we believe in the sum of ourselves…and that's the way we get by." This is what should be on the radio.
By "Something To Look Forward To" I'm ready to proclaim this one of my favorite albums of the year. Irresistible melodies weave around simple, subtle riffs and propulsive drumming. But it's way too short. How often can you make that complaint? The sampled human beat box in "Stay Don't Go" melds perfectly with an angular guitar riff. Daniel's falsetto cuts right through it all, though, conjuring John Lennon circa Revolver. My God, it's so good.
On "Jonathon Fisk" Spoon really sells its Costello chops. With a driving guitar riff, understated horns, and booming drums, the song makes you forget that real men don't dance, if only for a mere three minutes. Daniel outdoes himself lyrically as well: "Jonathon Fisk speaks with his fists/can't let me walk home on my own/and just like a knife down on my life/so many ways to set me right." Daniel spits out the words with the requisite bile and panache, making it an instant classic.
Even on a love song, Daniel sounds perfectly in control. Stick-clicking serves as the beat, effects swell, and a piano randomly chimes in while Daniel imparts his lovelorn wisdom: "I’ll never hold you back/and I won’t force my will/I will no longer do the devil’s wishes/something I read on a dollar bill." Kill The Moonlight is just one prospective hit after another. "Someone Something" instantly grabs your ear with its infectious piano riff and driving rhythms. Same story for "Don't Let It Get You Down." Daniel's ear for memorable melodies is astounding, and his band never over-plays. Such understated control is unbelievably rare.
The menacing tone of "All The Pretty Girls Go To The City" is exacerbated by reverb-heavy guitars and wiry interludes, but Daniel's rock and roll cadence lends an aggressive tension that keeps things punchy and upbeat. His confident vocal swagger makes such lines possible: "all the pretty girls go to the city/don't they don't they do my love/oh it's something to see they're so pretty/high heel shoes low neck sweaters acting so tough." "You Gotta Feel It" is yet another dynamic piano rocker, although it falls behind its predecessors in terms of immediacy. The final few songs significantly lack the power of first two thirds of the album, but that's only by comparison. On their own, they'd still hold up against any detractor's complaints.
Spoon rebounds from the insurmountable challenge of following up the colossally brilliant Girls Can Tell with an equally impeccable album. Though hardly obvious in its execution, Kill The Moonlight delivers the goods beyond all expectations. Repeated listens only enhance the experience, as the songs really get under your skin and plant themselves into your subconsciousness. Spoon has not only mastered the art of restraint, but it's damn close to having mastered the art of the song too.