Having been pink-slipped by Elektra just months after releasing the would-be 1998 breakthrough, A Series of Sneaks, Spoon’s Britt Daniel has reason to feel duped by the industry. He’s no Aimee Mann, though, and instead of using the experience to write albums full of thinly veiled critiques of corporate corruption, he’s learned to accept and appreciate his place in the indie-rock cosmos: “Small stakes give you the blues,” he sings on Kill the Moonlight, “but you don’t feel taken, don’t think you’ve been used.”
In setting his sights lower, Austin, Texas, native Daniel — a post-punk’s Elvis Costello now sitting pretty over at mini-imprint Merge — has freed himself from any allegiance he’s had to numbing, by-the-numbers rock traditionalism.
As a result, the band’s latest release is its best by miles: A Wire-y rock record that sounds as timeless as it does of-the-moment, Moonlight searches for the light at the end of tunnel that evaded last year’s deathly disillusioned Girls Can Tell — the band’s first post-Elektra offering — and finds salvation in its own sheer determination to move on (“The Way We Get By,” “Don’t Let It Get You Down”).
Not insignificantly, it’s also a doggedly uncommercial record. There are killer potential singles, sure, but Moonlight doesn’t pander to push-track pressure. It’s an artfully constructed album in the most traditional sense, a start-to-finish near-masterpiece that won’t have bottom line-minded A&R reps kicking themselves for letting Spoon go, but just might make ’em think twice about why they fuck they put on their suits every morning. So even if Daniel’s paycheck is smaller these days, the payoff is bigger.
E-mail Jimmy Draper at firstname.lastname@example.org.