Beer and Pavement

The Benefit of the Doubt

Posted in Records by SM on January 19, 2010

There are two ways one can earn benefit of the doubt status. The phrase means that one receives no judgment until all the evidence is in. This benefit is gained when previous experiences have been generally positive, leaving one to believe that current, questionable events are an anomaly or need time to sink in. This perk is earned either with with a short resume only displaying stellar production or a long history of mostly superior efforts.

Spoon has earned the right to always receive the benefit of the doubt. They suffered through a bad move to the majors in the 90’s only to emerge as one of the essential acts of the last decade. Their oeuvre is filled with way more good than bad. If Elvis Costello and Mick Jagger had a baby, they’d call it “Spoon.” That’s how highly I regard Spoon. I saw them play an atrociously boring set a few years back. Because of their history and past accomplishments, I gave Spoon another chance and was rewarded with a “best concert ever” kind of performance. Seriously.

So, when their latest effort, Transference, hit me in the face with made-up-on-the-spot, half-finished demos, I was taken aback. Then, I gave it another listen. Spoon, 16 years in, are still experimenting. They’re tinkering with their sound in an effort to grow and develop beyond “The Way We Get By.” The songs are different and minimalist. It’s an underwhelming record for sure, but when you hit “play” for a second go around, the groove hits you, makes you smile the only way a band like Spoon can. Then you remember why you gave Spoon the benefit of the doubt.

Vampire Weekend, on the other hand, deserves the benefit of the doubt solely based on 2008’s self-titled debut. Vampire Weekend was as triumphant an overly hyped debut as I can remember. They could have done a song-for-song response to Chinese Democracy featuring Miley Cyrus and Buckethead and it would have scored a 6.5 on Pitchfork. Instead, they opted to expand their sound and build on the Afro-pop that made them indie darlings for their follow-up. It’s as infectious and full of Google hits as the debut. Like Spoon, VW didn’t need the benefit of the doubt, but they’re earning it with each release.

Meh, we’ll see how long this Paul Simon-Afro-pop thing lasts to keep VW at the top of the so-called charts. Regardless, Spoon will be there to stay, always earning the benefit of the doubt, coming out on top in the end.

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2 Responses

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  1. partoftheprecipitate said, on January 20, 2010 at 3:28 am

    I think I was at that atrociously boring Spoon show. I told the sound guy he did a terrible job. I still got spoon’s autograph…

  2. […] Spoon’s Transference is not the greatest Spoon record ever. Of course, 99% of the bands out there would love to make an album this good. I will have to think long and hard about this one[18]. I may leave it off, because, well, I have to leave something out. […]

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