Covered: “Modern World”

Spoon fans had been waiting for years for a follow-up to Transference, eager to see if they could continue an unprecedented hot streak of excellent albums, and they finally got a clue this week that the wait may soon be over.  The cover photo of their Facebook page was updated yesterday with the cryptic message “SPOON R.I.P. JUNE 10”, indicating that something will be released in less than two weeks, whether it be a single or an entire album.  The announcement of a new album is not surprising, considering the band had announced tour dates beginning this summer, though the sudden timing sure is.  Considering I am one of the fans that I mentioned above, this is exciting news indeed.

With that in mind, I thought it was an excellent time to shine the spotlight on Spoon for our “Covered” feature.  One of my all-time favorite songs, “Me and the Bean” from the brilliant Girls Can Tell is actually a cover, though I’ve had trouble tracking down the original over the years since Sidehackers were a small local band.  Spoon has also been known to do a ripping version of the Rolling Stones’ gem “Rocks Off”, but for tonight it only gets a secondary mention.

I’m highlighting Spoon’s cover of Wolf Parade’s “Modern World” because it’s always great to see one great indie band recognize the talent of another great indie band.  “Modern World” tends to get lost in the shuffle when discussing Apologies to the Queen Mary, especially considering the apex of the “Shine A Light”-“Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts”-“I’ll Believe in Anything” triumvirate, so for Spoon to choose the song indicates that they had more than a passing familiarity with Wolf Parade, and that they were actually fans.  I’ll also remember that in one of their first performances of the cover on that particular tour (if not for the first performance) they had Dan Boeckner from Wolf Parade join Spoon for the cover, and I was just a few blocks away missing out (it’s ok, I saw Spoon later on during the tour, it all worked out).  As for the technical part of the actual cover, it’s faithful to the original, and it’s amazing how easily the song fits into the Spoon oeuvre; there are subtle touches specific to Spoon that are clearer after multiple listens (most notably, the simple drum beat accented by a shaker (similar to the one used for “Don’t You Evah”) and the little guitar lead that Britt uses to end the song), but otherwise it’s fairly similar to the Wolf Parade version.

“Modern World” was an excellent complement to Apologies‘ opener “You Are A Runner And I Am My Father’s Son”, setting up the dichotomy of the Dan Boeckner/Spencer Krug relationship (Dan sings “Modern World”, Spencer sings “Runner”).  It has a stripped-down sound especially compared to “Runner”, utilizing slightly twangy acoustic guitars instead of gaudy synths, though when the keyboard enters the song it’s for a distinctive and memorable solo.  The persistent driving beat of the song matches the depressingly cynical take on modern life (“Modern World, don’t ask why, cause Modern World, we build things high”,”Modern World, I’m not pleased to meet you; you just bring me down.”).  There’s really no other song on the album that matches its withdrawn mood, which helps it stand out.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the cover is that it lead to a musical collaboration between Britt Daniel from Spoon and Dan, a new group called Divine Fits.  The album that they created A Thing Called Divine Fits provided an intriguing amalgamation of elements from both of their previous groups, and is well worth checking out.  that said, as good as the album is, it could never beat the best work of either’s previous bands.  So once again, we wait patiently for the release of the newest Spoon LP, and hopefully Wolf Parade returns from its hiatus soon as well.

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