CD Review of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga by Spoon
Spoon: Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Label
Merge
Spoon: Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Reviewed by John Paulsen

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T
he year is 2020, and two Spoon fans are discussing the band’s discography:

Fan #1: What’s your favorite Spoon album?
Fan #2: I don’t know, I guess I like Gimme Fiction the best.
Fan #1: Yeah, that’s a good one.
Fan #2: What about you?
Fan #1: Um...probably Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.

Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga might be the most difficult five-syllable album name in the history of music. Not only is it tough to say, it’s a pain to type. What will its nickname be? Five Ga’s? Ga to the Fifth Power? Baby Talk? I don’t know, but somebody come up with something quick. Can you imagine what names they rejected?

Album titles aside, Spoon is – musically speaking – a very dependable band. Ever since 1998’s A Series of Sneaks, they have consistently managed to jam a few killer tunes and a lot of good tracks onto each of their albums, and Baby Talk is no exception. (Consider the nickname coined!) Some consider Gimme Fiction to be Spoon’s masterpiece and, at the very least, it garnered the band a whole new group of fans, but Baby Talk doesn’t seem as emotionally connected as its predecessor. Save for the excellent closer, “Black Like Me,” there isn’t anything as sincere as Fiction’s “The Beast and Dragon, Adored,” “They Never Got You” or “My Mathematical Mind.” That’s not to say that the album isn’t good. (It is.) It just doesn’t seem as personal, or maybe it’s just not as dark.

Regardless, frontman Britt Daniel loves to tinker with new sounds, and on “The Underdog,” Spoon combines layered horns – horns! – with an upbeat acoustic guitar and handclaps, making it the most immediately accessible track on the album. The brass is a bit subtler on “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb,” but when it’s mixed with a cool little xylophone and the jingle-jangle of a tambourine, the result is another catchy, up-tempo track. “Eddie’s Ragga” sounds like this year’s “Turn My Camera On.” There’s no Daniel falsetto, but it has the same driving beat and features some interesting melody in the verses, which are punctuated by lines where the frontman harmonizes with himself.

Generally, it seems like Spoon is in a pretty good place. Maybe they’re enjoying the success of Gimme Fiction. Some might say that the band didn’t explore much new territory with Baby Talk, but the mere presence of layered horns should put that kind of criticism to rest. It’s tough for a band to follow up its breakthrough/masterpiece, but Spoon did a fine job. There’s just one problem: to publicize the new release, someone mysteriously decided to leak the album’s most grating track, “The Ghost of You Lingers,” a chopsticks-style song that doesn’t really go anywhere. But that’s the album’s only glaring fault. Other than “The Underdog,” there aren’t any instant classics, but there’s a lot of good music here; it’s just going to take some time to sink in. Who knows, maybe by 2020, Baby Talk…err…Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga will be your favorite Spoon album.

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