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Spoon's audience is well fed

POP MUSIC REVIEW

June 24, 2005|Steve Hochman | Special to The Times

Spoon seems just a little mainstream radio play away from being this year's Modest Mouse, an overnight success more than a decade in the making. Or maybe the quartet from Austin, Texas, is just a "Garden State" soundtrack appearance or a spot on "The O.C." away from being this year's Shins or Death Cab for Cutie, an act stepping up the indie ladder to serious attention.

Either way, the band's show at the Avalon on Tuesday made clear that singer-guitarist Britt Daniels' recombinant pop has plenty to offer fans of smart, quirky yet immediately appealing music.

The show, drawing largely on Spoon's recent sixth album, the impressive and at times unsettling "Gimme Fiction," inspired a lot of spot-the-influence guesswork. Each song touched on at least two or three classic, mostly British, models -- Eric Harvey's spare, John Lennon-like piano in the opening "The Beast and Dragon, Adored," the Stones-Prince falsetto disco of the obsession ode "I Turn My Camera On," lots of Kinks wryness -- although the band never seemed imitative. Combinations that on paper might have seemed puzzling ("Kashmir" meets the White Album on "Fitted Shirt," for example) made for very original pop onstage.

The secret is what the musicians didn't play, using space as an instrument itself. Daniels' lyrics had a similar effect with their hide-and-seek emotions, although his own emotional presence was mostly in hide mode. But with music this good, that's a minor complaint.

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