Rock Roundup

Spoon Brings Un-Fussy Rock to Riverside Theater

The Austin natives take their summer album to a cooling Midwest, Club Garibaldi prepares to host a Brooklyn gem.

By - Sep 15th, 2014 01:30 pm
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Week’s Top Show: Spoon at Riverside Theater, Wednesday, September 17

First, here’s a killer song:

This song was issued on July 1 yet failed to become the single of the summer, although it certainly became the single of my summer and will likely stay in rotation as long as there are sunny days. Those days don’t even have to be warm.

Just over a month after the single, the eighth Spoon album, They Want My Soul, came out. If it lacked the timing to become the album of the summer, it’s apparently well on track to become the album of the year for many people.

It must be noted that Spoon has built up an enormous backlog of goodwill: since issuing its first full-length, Telephono, in 1996, the Austin, Texas band has crafted memorable, high-quality and largely unfussy pop-rock music.

“Largely unfussy” might seem like odd praise (and an odd phrase), but Spoon has a way of garnering large artistic payoffs from economical gestures. Examples: Britt Daniel’s throaty and immediate vocals, which are Lennon-like without being slavishly imitative, or drummer Jim Eno and bassist Rob Pope’s interplay, which is tight while allowing for elastic shifts.

Plus, Spoon has never made a new album that sounds like outtakes from or an attempted sequel to its previous album(s). The crisp clarity of They Want My Soul does not follow on from 2010’s Transference, which had the coarse edges of demo tapes that the band didn’t want to overthink.

However, Spoon’s basic consistency has kept fans listening: Transference, 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and 2005’s Gimme Fiction all reached the top or near the top of indie-label charts, and They Want My Soul might do even better.

There’s still a chance to make They Want My Soul the album of the fall. It is apple-harvest time, and Spoon remains elegantly, intelligently balanced on the pop-rock line between tart and sweet.

Have another Spoon-ful:

Tuesday, September 16: She Keeps Bees and Shilpa Ray at Club Garibaldi

Brooklyn generates so many bands that a few have to be excellent, especially when they survive past the first album. She Keeps Bees, the duo of frontwoman Jessica Larrabee and drummer Andy LaPlant, is on its fourth: Eight Houses, an unholy cross between Cat Power and Heartless Bastards.

Fellow Brooklyn resident Shilpa Ray is a good match for SKB because she’s equally earthy and urbane. Artsy as Patti Smith and jazzy as an angry Norah Jones, Ray gained notice a couple years ago with her band, Her Happy Hookers; her 2013 EP It’s All Self-Fellatio (on Nick Cave’s label) and forthcoming LP Last Year’s Savage find her sassily solo and snarling.

Wednesday, September 17: Bob Mould at Turner Hall Ballroom

Promos for the latest local appearance by this legend of alternative and underground rock have listed drummer Jon Wurster and bassist Jason Narducy almost as prominently as the main man. That’s probably because Bob Mould just loves threesomes. Musical threesomes, that is.

Mould pretty much defined serious Midwestern punk rock in the 1980s with Hüsker Dü. By the time the 1990s alt-rock boom was happening, his turn as frontman of Sugar earned him commercial honor. Both bands were trios, and while Mould has hardly been unexciting as a solo and/or acoustic act (cf. 1989’s Workbook), he’s never better than when amplified and accompanied.

Here are Mould, Wurster and Narducy on a track from Mould’s newest LP, Beauty & Ruin:

Thursday, September 18: Sir Sly and Wolf Gang at the Rave

Both bands co-headlining this show have been compared to Coldplay, and such a comparison has rarely been neutral. Those who use it positively note how the English quartet has surprising credibility for an arena-rock band; those who use it negatively just eliminate the credibility part.

Those simplifications aside, L.A.’s Sir Sly has a Depeche Mode darkness under its accessible and synth-based pop on its just-released debut album, You Haunt Me, while London’s Wolf Gang (which has actually opened for Coldplay) has a Waterboys-style excitability inside its first (and thus far only) album, 2011’s Suego Faults.

Representative samples of each:

Friday, September 19: The Midwest Beat at Cactus Club

Despite the fact that I dress more stylishly than most other rock critics, my tastes are not overly rarefied: I’ll pick a good beer over a good Scotch, take a day at a ballpark over a night at the opera and say the word “movie” much more often then I’ll utter the word “film.”

So I’m a little surprised that I haven’t been thoroughly or previously acquainted with the Midwest Beat, a Milwaukee band that ain’t ashamed of ragged harmonies, simple melodies and an aw-shucks attitude toward its rockin’ kind of Americana. This show celebrates its rollicking new album, Free of Being. If you go, have a beer.

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