Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Two albums by major indie rock bands came out on Tuesday: the previously reviewed Our Love to Admire and Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga by Spoon. And the latter is much, much better. Two of the highlights (“You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb”, “The Underdog”) resemble “Sister Jack” from Gimme Fiction, Spoon’s previous album, but both add soul-infused rhythms to the mix, with “The Underdog” even receiving a horn section, something unexpected from such a minimalist band (“I Turn My Camera On,” the hit from Gimme Fiction, has two chords and three bass notes; I’ve counted). But it works astoundingly well. “Don’t You Evah” also incorporates soul influences, but eschews the guitar pop that characterizes “Cherry Bomb” and “Underdog,” making for another great track. “Black Like Me” breaks new ground as well, being as it is the first ballad Spoon’s done, and Spoon succeeds here as well. Four other tracks “Don’t Make Me a Target,” “Rhthm and Soul,” “Eddie’s Ragga,” and “Finer Feelings” continue in more or less Spoon’s usual way, which, considering Spoon’s past work, isn’t bad at all.
Only two tracks are problems. “The Ghost of You Lingers” is a minimalist (duh) piano-driven track. Actually, take away the “driven,” because this song basically consists of Britt Daniels banging on a piano, Philip Glass-style, with airy atmospherics and echoey vocals added. Maybe I’m just a lightweight, but this is experimentalism for its own sake, and it doesn’t work. Nor does “My Little Japanese Cigarette Case,” the band’s foray into hard rock. Like “Ghost,” it seems too obsessed with emulating a genre foreign to the band, which comes at the expense of catchiness and overall appeal.
But eight out of ten ain’t bad, and, thankfully, neither is Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.

4 thoughts on “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

  1. I gave “The Underdog” a try at Rhapsody; and unlike some other such experiments, I actually sort-of like this song. However, I had the feeling that I have heard this vocal style a lot lately, and some a long time ago too.
    After a while I put my finger on it: Billy Joel. I then went back to “Only the Good Die Young”, written 30 years ago, and sure enough, the vocal style is similar. Billy Joel seems to me to be a prescient figure in what is now called alternative or indie rock. Even though some people are also suspicious of Billy Joel because he seems vaguely nerdy. (The nerd issue is an interesting and very ironic side of Joel; but I digress.)
    I also note that Joel’s producer Phil Ramone is at least as talented as George Martin. Moreover, Joel himself is rather closer to an intellectual equal to Ramone than some other pop music celebrities are to their producers.
    On the topic of vocals and indie music, you probably know the song “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by the Proclaimers. The Proclaimers had a lot of good artistic energy in this song. On the other hand, they didn’t care much about singing or playing tunefully; mainly rhythm was important. However, this particular song was covered by another party that truly has mastered vocal and guitar melody: The United States Navy! I challenge you to find the Navy rendition of “500 Miles”.

  2. I just bought “Ga ga ga ga ga” in iTunes when I saw it in my recommendations. On first listen, I like it. The songs seem quite varied, unlike a lot of groups where most of the songs on an album are similar in style.
    Graceland is my all-time favorite album. It got me interested in African music.
    I really like Gogol Bordello’s new album “Super Taranta!”. It’s kind of strange if you’re not familiar with them. They call their music “Gypsy Punk”. Imagine Lou Reed playing at a Jewish wedding.

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