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Spoon Returns to Form After They Return to Form After They Return to Form

We saw Spoon perform songs from their new record 'They Want My Soul' and felt OK about owning that pair of Keds.
September 22, 2014, 3:06pm

Sometime after watching a woman go fucking ham in her seat during “I Turn My Camera On,” arm dancing like she was trying to flag down a plane from the beach of a deserted island, it became increasingly hard to square the reports that indie rock is dead, that The Feeling is gone, that people don’t care about guitars the way they used to anymore. Last week, a packed crowd of people who have, at one time or another, probably found themselves on the mailing list for the Urban Outfitters catalog turned out for a nearly sold out Spoon show at the Orpheum in Madison, Wisconsin (Madison’s biggest theater venue)—and they did this on a school night. Indie moms and dads out on the town for the first time in weeks sat next to groups of college kids. These people popped for drum solos, went bonkers for album deep cuts (“I Summon You” from Gimme Fiction was treated like the band’s biggest hit) and did goofy handclaps during the part of every Spoon song when a goofy handclap is appropriate. There were probably more couples out on dates at the show than at any other place in town. It was a pretty good night for swiping right.

We live in an era with a serious buzz deficiency. You know, the tasty, indie rock buzz that used to keep a million blogs afloat with hip clothing store advertisement dollars. The shit that used to have you believing that Animal Collective had just made The Greatest Album Of All Time, the shit that had you convinced it was advisable to spend more than four minutes listening to/thinking about Local Natives. You probably argued about whether or not Wavves were “too overhyped” at some point in the last decade, and you will go to your grave with that shame.

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I went to the Orpheum to see Spoon, one of 2007’s (and 2002’s, and 2005’s, and 2000’s) premiere indie rock buzz collectors, because it feels like we’re on the verge of indie rock sliding back to being the music of some silent majority. Indie rock doesn’t drive the main wheels of the internet music culture the way it did even three years ago. Buzz around new indie rock bands go in and out of Twitter feeds faster than Daily Show segments. Yet the show at the Orpheum was a huge draw. Being a band like Spoon in 2014 means playing theater shows in every mid-sized market across America without much buzz, or hype, or “a blog narrative.” And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

The narrative around Spoon in 2014, in so much as there is one, is that their new album, They Want My Soul, is “a return to form,” which is music critic shorthand for “we don’t know what else to say about this band.” The only thing that’s changed is that Spoon took four years off to make this album, their longest time off ever. But ultimately They Want My Soul was fed into the wood chipper of bloggable content: they did some interviews, got reviewed at least 40 times, and had the same narrative repeated at least as many times (“they took four years off, and the new one is a return to form!”). But by the Friday after They Want My Soul came out, it was on to the next one. I would bet most people at the Orpheum couldn’t even tell you the exact date the album came out; the content tsunami came and went and it could have been six months ago, or six weeks ago (the latter being the case).

The best tracks from that record are already fitting in with Spoon’s packed, all killer no filler set. The group’s deep catalog is presented live only as the most fire songs from every album. “Don’t You Evah” led to “Small Stakes” led to “Who Makes Your Money,” and that’s only one-seventh of the set list. “The Beast and the Dragon, Adored” led to “Let Me Be Mine,” led to the EP-only “Got Nuffin,” which featured Britt Daniel engaging in flamethrowing guitar heroics. New standouts like “Do You” and “Rent I Pay” are among the best tracks the band has ever produced; the crowd knew the words to those ones as well as the old ones. The night’s performance made a pretty good case that if a Best Of Spoon compilation ever released, it would be the best Spoon album.

The real problem indie rock has faced this decade is that it’s felt so inevitable. There is always a new band of Brooklynites ready to play 1700 shows at SXSW, another band gunning for an 8.6. This was what Carles was getting at in one of the most prescient articles written about how we consume music today: “We’ll just keep buying ________ (tenured indie band) albums until we’re dead, growing old alongside our favorite artist that connect us to the cognitive prime of our youth even though their music already sounds old and dated.” Spoon won’t ever mean as much to the internet as they once did, but at the same time, there’s still crowds across America willing to take their Keds down to their local theater and turn up for the Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga deep cuts. Indie rock used to be the rug that tied the music internet together. Now it’s the wallpaper—there, and hardly commented upon.

Andrew Winistorfer doesn't want you to make him a target. He's on Twitter@thestorfer