Gimme Fiction


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Gimme Fiction Review

by Heather Phares

The three-year stretch between Gimme Fiction and Kill the Moonlight was the longest gap between Spoon's albums since the end of their disastrous relationship with Elektra Records helped put two and a half years between A Series of Sneaks and Girls Can Tell. In its own way, Gimme Fiction feels like as much of a refinement on what came before it as Girls Can Tell did at the time: theatrical and seething with late-night menace, the album sounds bigger than Spoon's previous work, with keyboards, guitars, and string parts courtesy of the Tosca Strings. But even within this scope, the band's eye for detail remains. Everything about Gimme Fiction, from its artwork -- which looks like photographer Irving Penn doing a surreal fashion spread on Little Red Riding Hood for Vogue Magazine -- to the sound effects that embellish each song, is meticulous. Fortunately, "meticulous" doesn't mean "precious." The album's first three tracks show that Spoon can make music that's intricate and rousing at the same time: "The Beast and Dragon, Adored" is a slow-building preface, mentioning later song titles and introducing Gimme Fiction's big, brooding sound. "The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine," a string-driven tale of a mysterious gentleman/cad, boasts some of Britt Daniel's cleverest storytelling, while "I Turn My Camera On" turns voyeurism and emotional distance into an irresistible groove that sounds like a tense rewrite of the Stones' "Emotional Rescue" (later on, the intro of "They Never Got You" sounds strangely like Hall & Oates' "Maneater" -- it's nice to hear them include '70s and '80s references that aren't the post-punk and new wave influences borrowed by so many other indie bands, or even the Elvis Costello nods that shaped so much of their earlier work). The opening trio of songs is so strong that it tends to overpower the album at first, but other standouts eventually surface: "My Mathematical Mind" is one long verse, broken by instrumental interludes, that keeps building tension with riveting results. On the other hand, the relatively lighthearted "Sister Jack" and pretty but jittery acoustic ballad "I Summon You" emphasize just how moody and nocturnal the rest of the album is. Indeed, restrained tracks like "The Delicate Place," "The Infinite Pet," and "Merchants of Soul" seem to be more about supporting Gimme Fiction's mood than standing out as great songs. "Meticulous," "distant," and "restrained" aren't the most likely adjectives to describe a good rock album, but they fit Gimme Fiction perfectly. With this album, Spoon continue to build one of the most consistent and distinctive bodies of work in indie rock -- even as they change and take chances from album to album, they end up sounding exactly how they should each time.

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