Feats of Strength: Spoon

We might as well finish things off this week with our Band of the Week, Spoon.  You would think that after all this time spent carefully analyzing the band’s albums and career over the past few days that we had covered everything, and to tell the truth, you would be partially correct: we did mention this particular moment on Tuesday.  But indulge us and allow us to examine a particular moment of brilliance from the band, the spastic guitar solo from “The Beast and Dragon, Adored”.

[For listening purposes, the solo occurs at around the three minute mark]

To the untrained ear, the guitar solo in this song is reminiscent of what many people say when confronted with modern art–“My kid could paint that.”  It’s true that on a superficial level the guitar solo sounds like a rather amateurish effort–similar to our previous Feats of Strength, in which we paid tribute to “shitty drumming”, but not quite.  It sounds like the kind of solo that a novice would attempt when he/she gets tired of practicing scales and wants to just rock out for a few seconds and unleash that rawk-n-roll spirit.  In other words, it sounds a lot like aural hot garbage.

In reality, it takes a lot of skill to sound that “bad”.  Take it from a musician who’s played guitar for dozens of years and is still more comfortable with writing a traditional fretboard-burner than a freakout like this one.  It may sound like a mess of random notes, but that’s not really accurate; the exact notes were not planned out, but the general plan was determined well in advance.  The use of dissonant tones and a chromatic scale were pre-planned, and Britt’s rhythm is spot-on, speeding up and repeating notes as necessary.  It is the definition of “controlled chaos”.

The solo also needs to be considered within the context of both the song and of Spoon’s music in general.  The band has a reputation for absolute precision, with each part carefully constructed to fit within the perfect space in the music.  Even on their more energetic and rocking songs, the band never loses control of the music, and they always maintain a tight feel.  This is present in the song as well–aside from the lead guitar, every instrument is locked into place, and played at a measured and precise tempo.  The lead guitar then comes in and shocks the listener, disturbing the previously imagined order.  If another band had attempted the same trick, it wouldn’t have the same resonance or power because this moment goes against everything we’ve expected from Spoon.  It makes for an incredibly compelling live performance as well, as this is one of the few moments where the audience sees Britt completely lose himself to the music as he falls to the floor to wring out all the emotion possible from the solo.  At this point, the audience now understands that when they believe, they call it rock’n’roll.

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