Thursday, August 14, 2014

DB's Song of the Day (day 226): "KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK" (2014) Spoon

Will wonders never cease—a contemporary song! Spoon’s eighth album came out this month, and, while They Want My Soul is still being absorbed by whatever cranial capacitors of mine are still functioning, I’ve come up with a bona fide “this is what I paid for” track. The video shows them playing it on a radio show. It’s close to the recorded version but, y’know, I’m a recordings over live performance guy, mostly.

(I mean, there are some singers and musicians who truly extend themselves live, but generally speaking I like what studios and engineers and lathe-cutters and all the rest do to music. I mean, it’s great to be there when the sound is going down, but there’s also all the “show-going” aspects that kind of detract. I guess you could say it’s the people. Anyway, I will be seeing Spoon for the first time (guess it’s about time, these guys are 40ish now) in September in NYC, so.)

Why this song as the one that grabbed me most, or first? Easy answer: noisy guitar. The aspect of the previous Spoon album—Transference (2010)—that earned my “ok, I’m a fan” respect was my sense that it extended anything the band had done previously with guitar. These aren’t “leads” in the usual sense, but rather “fills,” and Spoon is a band with an ingenious gift for fills. That’s what I’m appreciating most in listening to the new one and it’s the quality that can still surprise my ears when I listen to the older albums—which I’m happy to say I’ve mostly now collected on vinyl. And that alone should declare my allegiance. There aren’t many contemporaries (I mean artists who haven’t been around since the Eighties or before) that I’d make that effort for.

Spoon has added Alex Fischel on guitar and keyboards since that album, and he’s the guy getting interesting sounds out of his guitar on the video. The album generally feels to me more straightforward than Transference, which, to my ears, broke new ground. So when I say “straightforward,” I mean it’s what I guess can now be called “classic” Spoon. It’s got that crisp attack on pop sensibility found on Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007) which is when the band fully clicked for me—I mean apart from the irresistible tracks found on Gimme Fiction (2005) and Kill the Moonlight (2002). The latter album was their “first” as far as I was concerned and it’s taken me some time to get back to the albums from the Nineties. Maybe because I’m a little loathe to go back to the Nineties. All those earnest young men with guitars. A real drag.

Britt Daniel’s not that. His vocal panache reminds me of David Lowery of Cracker and formerly of Camper van Beethoven. (Cracker was a Nineties band I’m still OK with, by the way.) That “off-beat” quality of singing with odd emphasis—a Daniel specialty—appeals to me and Jim Eno’s drums are close to a lead instrument at times. Which has a lot to do with how Daniel and Eno, the founders of the band, balance the sound between them. Everyone else kind of “sits in” and fleshes out the sonic textures, which leave a lot of room for your ears to move around in.

Today’s song is one of the more brooding songs on the album. As a lyricist Daniel can be a bit abrasive at times, and with a title like “They Want My Soul,” one could imagine that, this far into the game, he’s starting to feel the pinch. Forties is where the shit hits, you know. “Knock Knock Knock” has gestures toward some kind of emotional tie that still’s claiming attention: “You tell me I’m your only friend / And it starts all over again.” At the close he tells us “So I put down my poison pen.” Seems he’s ready to cross this one off, but it keeps coming back around: “Every day I hear knock knock knock and it’s you.” I’m guessing the main situation is that kind of needy person who keeps showing up and our boy isn’t ready to just let ’er fall (“you’re shaking / And you’re breaking”). It was Warhol’s birthday a few days back. He was the king of those kind of people. The eternal hangers-on.

And Andy’s not a bad reference point since the song opens with a film: “All lines are read / The film is done /After hours is on and now they’ll make another one.” There’s a nice repetition compulsion there, the machine-driven aspect of art that Warhol championed. “And scenes get rearranged / And words unsaid.” Here, the film-making may just be a metaphor for the ways we interact, these days. Stage metaphors have been replaced—remember Talking Heads’ “Found a Job”?—and everyone’s got walk-on parts in everyone else’s film. Even the details Daniel puts on this person—sounds like a guy, actually—“living in a buttoned-up world / Living in 1892” make him seem possibly a cloying aesthete or something a bit raffiné. Yeah, the more I think about it, I’d say this is one of those “Positively 4th Street” kind of things, where someone has to get a comeuppance: “When your hand is on the trigger / And you know it’s gonna blow / But you don’t give a damn / Don’t care who’s gonna know.” The type who is going to take some people down when he goes. I could an’ if I would . . .

Makes that “knock knock knock” sound more and more baleful, doesn’t it? Me, I first heard it as something even grimmer than this dude being described, and why not. Another birthday is knock, knock, knocking on my door and so I’ll let this song stand-in for my feelings about that. Makes that 1892 reference seem a little personal, y’know?

Ah, but they didn’t have rock’n’roll in those days, though there were always shows and show tunes to waste your life on, if so inclined.

If you miss the meaning this time / Here comes another one

No comments: