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Big Noise From Little Radio

Spoon

Little Radio, July 16

It was at least 100 degrees in the slam-packed, converted downtown warehouse that is Little Radio. Spoon’s prickly main man, Britt Daniels, had a tough time keeping the sweat out of his eyes. In concise, sweeping motions, he wiped his brow with his sleeve while slashing the down strokes on his guitar.

The band came to town to play a few low-profile shows (including one at Cinespace the next day) in celebration of the release of their new full-length, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, before a proper “concert” at the Fonda in September. Spoon played for free at Little Radio in support of Internet radio when they could have easily filled a bigger room.

Spoon’s songs overflow with Daniels’ angular guitar stabs and tremelo-soaked outros, but that’s just part of the attraction. The singer’s best songs incorporate deceptively simple (and sometimes traditional) chord structures, the same ones found in music ranging from old American standards and torch songs to jerky post-punk outfits from the late ’70s/early ’80s such as Gang of Four and Wire. Examine those bands’ most melodic turns to uncover the place where Spoon has picked up the pieces and reconstructed them to suit a new purpose.

Daniels and drummer/partner Jim Eno touched a lot of bases. The best-received song at Little Radio, “I Turn My Camera On” from Gimmie Fiction (many fans’ entrée to Spoon), is a one-off dance groove that doesn’t represent the group in any meaningful way (but is still a whole lotta fun). The new single, “The Underdog,” is bringing (possibly) unwelcome comparisons to Billy Joel. Which is one problem that some have with the band: Spoon is classic rock for the new millennium. The band walks a tightrope: too straight-ahead commercial-sounding for the truly underground but too cerebral for the masses. But like the Cheap Trick or Tom Petty records released concurrently with ’70s punk rock (and enjoyed in privacy by many a mohawked), Spoon is a wonderfully guilty pleasure.

—John Curry