Austin-based band Spoon has garnered a reputation for dependability, releasing solid album after solid album for the last 10 years or so. The band’s last effort, 2007’s bizarrely titled Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, was one of their most well received releases, so there’s a lot working against the band’s newest LP, Transference. Transference could have been the album to cement the band’s legacy as one of the decade’s greatest acts, but it falls somewhat short. Most frustrating is the glimmers and flashes of inspiration present throughout the album, revealing Transference’s undelivered-upon potential.
First impressions of Transference are that it’s missing something. Indeed, the excellent keyboard backings that made so many songs from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga pop have been minimized here. Instead, the majority of new tracks rely far too heavily on big bass and crunchy guitars. While those sounds have always been integral to Spoon’s auditory output, the band’s overuse of the same instrumentation and four-chord patterns yield no surprises for the listener.
One of the album’s biggest errors is the way the songs are arranged: Right away, “Before Destruction” highlights musical patterns that dominate the first half of Transference.
A darker, more dissonant tone, coupled with the absence of any real hook, haunt the first group of songs, while the next couple tracks are incredibly predictable and hard to distinguish between. Elsewhere, the band’s Ben Folds-aping tracks don’t do Transference any favors.
This is not to say that this LP has no bright spots. Lead singer Britt Daniel’s much-improved lyricism continues to grow. In fact, the album’s best song, “Got Nuffin,” will no doubt be considered among the band’s best-ever tracks. “Trouble Comes Running” is another standout, though it probably could have done without the strange vocal effects.
While Transference may be a step back for a band of Spoon’s caliber, it’s an album a lesser band would be proud of.