61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 2001
....It is not a "revelation," unless the revelation is that something can be great and totally unassuming, too.
But a 5 star record should be a record in which every song is great, and which will sound just as good 10 years from now. It needn't change the world at all--it just needs to be great in and of itself. With "Girls Can Tell," Spoon achieves just that: a timeless, fresh-sounding album of stripped-down rock songs which pay homage to the past without being too reverential, while maintaining a sound which is neither retro nor hyperfashionable.
In a sense the record reminds me of early R.E.M. records (though they sound nothing alike!) in that the spareness of the instrumentation seems to connote much more than is actually there, though the guitar/bass/drums arrangements leave room for the odd keyboard, harpsichord, etc. to pop in for added color.
In the past, Spoon seemed to err on the side of indie coolness. On "Girls Can Tell" there is an emotional openness to the melody and lyrics refreshing in its lack of irony. Here they are much more interested in being a rock band--one you might've heard on the radio somewhere between (I'm guessing) 1974 and 1980. The Thin Lizzy influence is there in the dry, spare attack of the band and the almost conversation run-on cadences of some vocals ....
...the album does rock with attitude, and rock in a way that does not require bone-crushing distortion, ham-fisted drums, a handful of steroids, and one trillion overdubs. It has the dangerous grace and surprise impact of a Shaolin boxer to the current state-of-rock's WWF.
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2002
Following their unceremonious departure from Elektra records, Spoon suffered in a kind of musician's purgatory while vainly searching for a new label. The frustration for Britt Daniel, Spoon's de facto leader, was compounded by the fact that the band had already finished recording its next album. After sending demos to dozens of labels - and receiving dozens of rejection letters - Daniel was feeling, well, kind of washed up. It would have been a very sad story if it wasn?t for the kind people at Merge Records.
It's difficult to understand how any label could pass on an album as effortlessly accomplished as Girls Can Tell. Combining the hushed pop introspection of Big Star's minor key moments with the angular, keyboard-driven minimalism of Chairs Missing-era Wire, Girls Can Tell is an album of sublime longing, punctuated by Daniel's expressive, razor-nicked voice. In his Austin, Texas drawl, Daniel sings songs of love, betrayal, faith and tradition over a spare arrangement of guitar, bass, drums and piano. It all feels a little melancholy.
It's the space within the songs that may be the most salient aspect of Girls Can Tell. While so many bands feel compelled to fill a song up with the unnecessary, Spoon breaks rock 'n' roll down to its base elements, employing only what is needed. Songs like "Believing is Art" are reduced, in parts, to an almost subliminal bass line above a simple, rhythmic pattern. While another band would place rhythm guitar behind the lead, Spoon limits the lead to a rigid, three-note motif and eliminates the extraneous strum. Yet, even without the frills, Girls Can Tell still sounds extraordinary.
Despite these spartan arrangements, the songs themselves are full of texture with Daniel and his bandmates, drummer Jim Eno and bassist Josh Zarbo, augmenting the basic melody with hints of piano or harpsichord. The'effect is often haunting, especially when paired with Daniel's pensive lyrics. "Everything Hits at Once", the first song of the album, begins with a soft keyboard fill and reverberating vibes, as Daniel croons "Don?t say a word, the last one's still stinging." In "Lines in the Suit", the vibes are replaced by piano and off-beat rhythm guitar, with three overdubbed Daniels singing in harmony: "How come I feel so washed up at such a tender age?"
While the bulk of the album does have that sense of minor key sadness, Spoon manages to rock out on a couple of numbers. "Take the Fifth" has the new wave piano and insistent bass of a pre-Warner Elvis Costello as Daniel "talks it up all of Saturday night". "Take a Walk", the band's kiss-off to its former label, is reminiscent of Spoon's Pixie-ish first album Telephono with its coupling of jagged guitar and lyrical vitriol. "And now the song's been sung, It's just the cost of what's been done" spits Daniel with a palpable mix of anger and contempt .
While some of Spoon's critics have rebuked the band for wearing its influences too plainly on its collective sleeve, the band has sublimated these influences on Girls Can Tell, resulting in a sound that is distinctly its own. Yes, the band still steals from its inspirations, nicking a bit from the Gang of Four, the Beatles and a hundred other bands, but it does so with such brash singularity that these influences are incidental to the results. Girls Can Tell is an album of moody brilliance and minimalist pop that improves with each listen. As each song becomes more familiar, its textures - the odd, ancillary sounds and keyboard fills - are increasingly apparent and increasingly vital to the song's design. Despite the spare arrangements, Daniel's songs are surprisingly complex. Already, Girls Can Tell feels like a classic.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2002
One singer. Minimal keyboards and sampling. One guitar, one bass, drums. How can this simple formula become the genre-defying, infectious experience that is Spoon's "Girls Can Tell"? When the novelty of the White Stripes' anti-establishment minimalism has worn off, Spoon will be here to pick up the pieces and prove that *musicianship* plus minimalism equals alchemy: more than the sum of the parts.
From the first bars of "Everything Hits at Once," I was bobbing my head and tapping feet. Whether on the aching but uptempo "Lines in the Suit" (like a fusion of the Mamas and the Papas with Elvis Costello), the straightforward, Tom Petty-ish "Anything You Want", or the surf-rock instrumental "This Book Is A Movie", Austin singer-songwriter Britt Daniel's pop hooks catch in the fleshy part of your consciousness and take permanent hold. Collaborator and drummer Jim Eno keeps pace with flair but not flash.
Daniel's voice evokes the emotion, if not the sound, of classic rock singers with country roots, a la Tom Petty and Neil Young.
Classic 70s rock and roll, R&B, rockabilly, 60s pop, classic country, roots rock, surf rock, and new wave all surface during a listen to "Girls Can Tell" - but such comparisons should be used with caution, since Spoon's sound is far more than the sum of those influences.
The truth is that "Girls Can Tell" is very much a modern record, only possible with all of the musical history that went before it. That Spoon has managed to create a completely unique sound out of their cultural reference bank is all for our gain.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2001
When I heard samples of this album I was hooked instantly! They have a clean sound that is catchy from the first time you listen. Each song is individual from the others. The melodic sound of the piano keeps the music upbeat...combined with the lead singer's voice it's a perfect blend. The music brings me memories and thoughts of an early Billy Joel, Ben Folds Five, and Cake.
This album shows the tremendous talents of Spoon and is definitely a group to watch for in the very near future. What lies ahead looks very promising for them!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2002
This outstanding album didn't stand a fair chance when it was released in 2001, admittedly a year of really great music. They fell just under the radar of notice, although critics made note of it, and as it was, a relatively famed band released a pretty [darn] good album in near obscurity.
Their music is driven by beats and melodies and these folks feel like simplified rock and roll. It's concise, to the point, and clean, if music can be described as such. In fact, it's catchy rock with pop simplicity, without being offending to rock. And use of clever musicianship. Track 10's "This Book Is a Movie" is a song completely without lyrics and is pretty cool that way. Their sound doesn't have any pretentions to be anything more than old fashioned rock and they stay consistent throughout. The album isn't difficult to enjoy, even if you've never experienced Spoon before. All their songs are extremely friendly and enjoyable, but no less credible for its accessibility. Bottom line: Disturbed or Papa Roach-like fans may not become avid fans, but if you like the Pavement, Strokes, Coldplay type of rock, you'll more than likely appreciate Spoon for what they are. Worth sampling, maybe off the net at first, if you can get a hold of it.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2002
I find it very hard to write a review of this album. I know that it's one of my favorite CDs right now, but I can't really express why. The songs in and of themselves are not unorthodox or different, yet something about them is just wonderful and addictive to listen to. I especially like "Everything Hits At Once", "Me and the Bean", "Fitted Shirt", and "Take a Walk". "Take the Fifth" can get somewhat annoying after repeated listens, but the rest of the album is constantly listenable. There's something about the understated vibraphone trills and just the right amount of electric guitar that makes this album not too loud and distorted, yet not too soft (though I do enjoy music on both sides of the spectrum). This album is just...right. Anyone who likes unique Indie rock should give this album a try. It's a gem.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 11, 2004
The only reason I bought this CD was because it appeared in countless "best of" lists for 2001. Even though I had never heard of them, I thought there must be something there. I finally bought this CD last month, and it hasn't left my car CD player yet. It is not an album that immediately catches you, but rather one that sneaks up on you after repeated listening. I love this CD, most notably "Everything Hits at Once", "Fitted Shirt", and "Chicago at Night".
I really can't pin-point who they sound like or are similar to... but their uniqueness is very special. If you like hard rock, sound effects, screaming vocals, etc then do not get this CD. But if you like indie rock that isn't over-produced, has witty lyrics, and catchy melodies, listen to the sound clips and/or get the CD and decide for yourself if this album is worth the five stars.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2004
There's no getting around the fact that Spoon are awesome. Everyone who listens to them likes them because it's very hard not to...mainly because their music is really catchy and well-written. I am very picky about my music; I am a musician, classically trained, and most modern music really makes me cringe (I'm a big classic rock fan). Girls Can Tell, in my opinion, is better than Kill The Moonlight. Both possess sort of minimalistic electronic rock, but I think Girls Can Tell as a whole is a much better album, and it only gets better after repeat listenings wheras Kill The Moonlight may not hold up so well to constant play. The more I listen to Spoon, the more I like them. Keep it up, guys, because there isn't enough original, organic music out today. In order to combat the over-produced, pre-packaged music of my generation, we need more bands like Spoon.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2004
Spoon has seen more more popularity after their CD "Kill the moonlight" came out, but not as many people know the earlier, and equally strong CD "Girls can Tell". This CD has some amazing tracks on it, such as "Fitted Shirt", "everything hits at once" and the slower paced "1020 A.M.". This CD is full of Indie gems, and it is worth repeated listening. Get this CD!
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2001
I saw Spoon perform one of their first shows in Austin, Texas in 1993 and I thought they were a huge Pixies rip off band. All the songs I heard from their releases on the University Of Texas radio did little for me...until now.
I dont know what happened but they got it right for this record. This album is really really good. "Chicago at Night" is amazing! "Lines in a suit" and "Fitted Shirt" are pretty damned good too. Just hear the samples. In fact, I find it odd that The Strokes "Is This It?" are being held up as this stunning record when this album by Spoon is about as good. I guess it's all hype and image and such.