The 15th Anniversary: Spoon’s “Girls Can Tell”
Celebrating Under the Radar's 15th Anniversary and the Best Albums of 2001
Under the Radar's very first print issue came out in December 2001. In honor of our 15th Anniversary some of our writers are reflecting on some of their favorite albums (and movies and TV shows) from 2001, that are also celebrating their 15th anniversary.
By the time their third overall, and Merge debut LP, Girls Can Tell came out in 2001, Spoon had already been through several labels, most recently Elektra (chronicled hilariously on "The Agony of Lafitte") and little was expected. However, it sold more than their previous albums combined and directly paved the way for their later success further into the 21st century, which continues today up to their 2014 album They Want Your Soul. So how did they get there? Leader Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno (along with producer Mike McCarthy) stripped away some of the jagged, distorted edges characteristic of their earlier work and replaced them with a poppier, more accessible sound. If all this sounds like the dreaded "selling out," it wasn't. Their Pixies and Wire influences were still audible, but by bringing in a more New Wave-inspired sound, they not only brought the band more commercial success and ensured its future, but ended up making arguably the best album the band has ever made. Opener "Everything Hits at Once" feels like a 2000s version of a romantic Crowded House number and from there, the thundering bass line of "Me and the Bean" (a cover of a song by the mid '90s Austin band The Sidehackers) suggest nothing less than Graham Maby's work with Joe Jackson circa Body and Soul. "Anything You Want" and "Take a Walk" are both redolent of both '60s garage rock and Elvis Costello's "Pump It Up" (respectively), while "The Fitted Shirt" feels inspired by their namesake CAN in its coda. All this is balanced out by the gorgeous instrumental "This Book is a Movie" and the eerily beautiful closer "Chicago at Night." Spoon have gone on to make some very good albums since Girls Can Tell, but they've never made one as great and one that expertly weaves their accessible and experimental sides quite as well.
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