Sneaky and subtle where other bands are brash and overstated, Austin's Spoon has enjoyed a comfortable anonymity for the bulk of its nine-year life span. That started to change with 2002's Kill the Moonlight, a record that found the group fiddling with its own aesthetic to create songs that wobbled and bounced as if built on a rickety foundation. Three years later, Spoon mastermind Britt Daniel remains intrigued by this idea of pulling apart the pop song. Although the record's two concessions to directness -- the charging "Sister Jack" and loopy "The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine" -- are both deeply rewarding, the soul of Gimme Fiction isn't so much the collaboration between band members as it is Daniel's cunning as an arranger. Rather than let all the players hammer straight through a three-minute song, Daniel opts to stagger their entrances. Throughout the jaunty "I Summon You," instruments appear and drop out and reenter in a way that feels almost maddeningly arbitrary. Its closing track, "Merchants of Soul," is nothing but a stumbling backbeat, a few piano chords and a dizzy string section. It's not hard to imagine Daniel behind the control board in the studio, devilishly yanking the faders down and then pushing them back up again a few seconds later. Gimme Fiction furthers Spoon's reputation as a band in love with nuance, and its blind alleys and cockeyed construction make it consistently thrilling and endlessly fascinating.
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