The Austin Chronicle

Record Reviews

Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, February 16, 2001, Music


Girls Can Tell (Merge)

The best thing about Spoon is that you always know it's Spoon. Girls Can Tell. Beginning with 1994's Nefarious EP, and continuing through several other extended-plays, singles, and full-lengths (often interchangeable in Spoon's catalog), the little old alt.trio from Austin has marched to the beat of its own drummer -- Jim Eno. Sometimes following, sometimes anticipating the boss's sharp, pulsing riffs, Eno packs a tight, Charlie Watts beat while songman Britt Daniel, a modern day Jekyll & Hyde hipster/nerd, burbles cryptic love riddles for the disenchanted. Press it, play it, love it. On the band's third full-length, their first for Superchunk indie Merge, the bing-bang-boom of Eno's leadoff drum roll, ...Trail of Dead man Conrad Keely's ever-so-Sixties guest Mellotron, and a signature Danielian guitar slashing on opener "Everything Hits at Once" spells Spoon in 27 different tongues. Girls Can Tell. Its taut follow-up, "Believing Is Art," ebbing with Eno and departed bassist Josh Zarbo's steadfast syncopation and flowing with Daniel's six-string snarl, is even more explicit, more S-P-O-O-N. More confident and sure of itself than either '96's terrific Telephono for Matador or '98's brilliant car crash A Series of Sneaks on Elektra, Girls Can Tell is Spoon at its most subdued, but also its most assured, its most melodic. And tightest. The songs, as good a cache as Daniel's written, encapsulate Spoon's entire career, making it all sound like one big riff, one big drum beat and bass line, one big missing girl. The Kinksian "Lines in the Suit," George Harrisonesque "1020 AM," and particularly the radio hit that will never be, "Take the Fifth," with its "Way" catchy keyboard hook and handclaps, all sound like you loved them on a previous Spoon album. The upbeat and bobbing "Take a Walk" and jabbing "The Fitted Shirt" Daniel could've written with one boxing glove tied behind his back. Tosca violanesse Ames Asbell adds atmosphere to the instrumental "This Book Is a Movie," which sets up another soon-to-be Spoon standard, closer "Chicago at Night," Daniel's romantic hopelessness buoyed by tight-rope instrumentation. A minor masterpiece in two minutes and 40 seconds. Girls Can Tell.


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