Top 100 Albums of the Decade: #81 Spoon - Kill the Moonlight
The Top 100 Artists of the Decade list will be posted over the course of 100 days. On September 23rd, we will post one artist and continue every day until December 31st, when we will unveil our #1 artist of the decade!
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Kill the Moonlight, Spoon's fourth album, is lean and muscular, without a hint of any superfluous ornamentation. The opening song “Small Stakes” is almost aerodynamic, whizzing past with little more than electric piano, vocals, and drums. This stripped down approach can be dangerous, because it puts a lot of pressure and focus on the songwriting and musical execution, but Spoon delivers in spades. If Jim Eno wasn’t considered one of indie rock’s finest drummers before, he certainly improved his odds with Kill the Moonlight. His giant-sounding yet agile rhythms lay down the groundwork for Britt Daniel’s sinuous guitar and trademark vocals, supported superbly by bass, keyboards, and the occasional saxophone.
The songwriting features Spoon’s heralded knack for building tension, with songs like “Jonathan Fisk” and “Something to Look Forward To” coiling so tightly you can almost feel your stomach knot up. And the band never really gives the tension any slack or breathing room, more often than not choosing to revel in it. Instead of finding a strong melody or hook and letting it run its fixed course (aka beating it into the ground like so many lesser bands do), Spoon subverts it, plays with it, and trims it of any excess fat, hinting at the inevitable payoff that will bring it all back full circle before changing direction and leaving us wanting more.
There certainly is no shortage of highlights on Kill the Moonlight, and I don’t want to go through every track (actually, I do), but I have to cast light on some personal favorites. “Paper Tiger” is equal parts haunting and riveting; I have never heard so much done with so little. “The Way We Get By” uses its towering catchiness to carry some killer lyrics about reckless youth, and “Jonathan Fisk” recalls the best of Spoon pre-Girls Can Tell, when they were being compared to Wire and The Pixies. But at the same time, “Stay Don’t Go,” (featuring Britt Daniels beat boxing) “Someone Something,” and “You Gotta Feel It,” confirm that Spoon are the grooviest white dudes around.
Spoon has been cranking out excellent albums for the past twelve years now, making them one of the most consistent bands in rock. As a result of their solid discography, it can be all too easy to view a Spoon album as just another link in a - admittedly great - chain. But it’d be a mistake to skim over Kill the Moonlight, which would be the magnum opus of any other bands’ catalogue.