What happens when one-time punk/grunge band with a vaguely Foo-Fighter-eqsue sound decides to go minimalist and hitchhike to Motown? You get Spoon's last album, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.
A week or so ago, I was ordering some stuff from Amazon and was close to getting free shipping. I had heard that Spoon had released a new album, so I looked it up and bought it on impulse for 10 bucks, only 3 more than my shipping would have cost. I don't much about Spoon, so I'm probably not qualified to say much in the way of comparison to their previous work. But what I do know is that they claim the Pixies as an influence and in the past have been compared to Nirvana, another Pixies-influenced band. Overall, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga doesn't sound that much like Nirvana or the Pixies. But there are footprints of Seattle grunge---like the bass lines on "Don't You Evah," and "Rhthm And Soul" and the power chord rhythms on "My Little Japanese Cigarette Case."
Most of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is what I would describe as minimalist rock. The sound is for the most part pared down to the essential elements of the genre. It tends to favor acoustic, simple rhythms, repetition, and above all simplicity. You don't get a lot of guitar duets, overlapping melodies, or even much vocal harmony. "The Ghost of You Lingers," which features multiple vocalists, is essentially call-and-response as opposed to simultaneous harmony. In fact, the name Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is supposed to suggest the simplistic repetition of a piano rhythm; it aptly describes the minimalist sound of the album. When you do get a more complex melody line (like the Flamenco-inspired guitar-picking in "My Little Japanese Cigarette Case"), it's showcased against an unembellished background of muted rhythm guitar and percussion.
That it favors acoustic simplicity is not to say that Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga eschews electronic elements, though. They're there, especially on "The Ghost of You Lingers." And some songs use echo effects on the vocals, but on the whole electric elements are used sparingly. In this case, a little electronica leaveneth the whole lump.
But the minimalist overtone of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga makes the few larger, deeper arrangements really stand out and rock, especially with the Motown inspired horns. In particular, "The Underdog" and "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb" incorporate this little touch of soul. "Cherry Bomb" even adds in the Martha and the Vandellas-style bells. It's fun.
Actually, one of the most interesting features of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is its use of percussion. I already mentioned the Motown bells, but there's more. My favorite track, "The Underdog" incorporates, in successive layers, shakers, tambourines, sleigh bells, and, spoons---yes, spoons---over a folksy, O.A.R.-reminiscent acoustic strum rhythm with Motown horns. The Jazzy trumpet flourish at the end even sounds distinctly like something They Might Be Giants would do. They use spoons---it's so eponymous. And you've gotta respect that.