Not only was Spoon’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga a seminal album from the heyday of indie rock, it thrust the band onto the iPods and Zunes of countless listeners who wouldn’t have otherwise found them popping up on their radar. By the time of its 2007 release, Spoon had already amassed a pretty impressive following of college radio fans, but they had no way of predicting how monumental the album would be in propelling them into the public eye. The band’s sixth studio album crafted a sound that was mainstream enough to branch out to a wider audience, while still maintaining the raw energy that initially won over their fanbase.
It’s no wonder that the Austin indie darlings’ album debuted at number 10 on the Billboard charts. It was in 2007 when people realized just how cinematic Spoon’s music inherently is, with several tracks from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga being played to death for years in the background of everything from sitcoms to summer blockbusters to soda commercials. The album has a consistent beat you move to, even in its quiet moments, making it the perfect soundtrack for a summer house party. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga dares listeners of all walks of life not to enjoy its sultry blend of upbeat flavors.
The album opens with “Don’t Make Me a Target,” a scathing indictment of the Bush administration for anyone who takes the time to sift through the lyrics: “When you reach back in his mind / Feels like he’s breaking the law / There’s something back there he got / That nobody knows.” Although, it’s not difficult to ignore the lyrics altogether, especially in lieu of the big, sexy guitar hook that is constantly launching the song forward. As the song reminds us, biting satire is found just below the surface of a catchy beat.
Rock albums don’t typically lean heavily on piano, but Spoon is anything but a typical rock band. “The Ghost of You Lingers” features stripped down, staccato chords repeated over ghastly vocals, almost predicting the musical path Trent Reznor would take in the years to follow. It was these rapid fire piano beats that gave the band the idea for the album’s title, claiming that when it was played, the progression sounded like “ga ga ga ga ga” to their ears. The track’s bare bones nature lends itself to expansion, and it continues to evolves throughout its inclusion in live performances.
Long before it found its home in a Dr. Pepper ad, “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” was a fan favorite. It brings the mood back up after its somber predecessor and reminds you that this is a dance record. Spoon is a group that continues to push themselves, often with the inclusion of a variety of instruments. There are three different versions floating around, but the one which appears on the album throws in xylophones and a horn section, creating an overwhelming sound that envelops its listeners. No matter how often you revisit this track, it always seems to leave you too soon.
The only cover to make its way onto the album, “Don’t You Evah” was originally performed by The Natural History, a New York indie rock outfit that had dissolved in 2005. It was clearly difficult for the band to record, and the many takes only helped to cement the track in its most pristine form. The song begins with a conversational opener brought on by frustration, as frontman Britt Daniel can be heard calling “Jim, can you record the talkback?”. Whatever turmoil went into crafting the track paid off, as this tune with a persistent and impeccably groovy bassline would go on to become one of Spoon’s most popular songs.
“Rhthm & Soul,” with a title stemming from a typo that stuck, seems specifically designed to be played over silent movie footage. Like many of the band’s most compelling numbers, the song doesn’t seem to belong to any particular time period. Keeping with the themes presented throughout the album, there is conflict buried under an up-tempo beat. The most impressive accomplishment of “Rhthm & Soul” is that is showcases just how well Britt Daniel, Jim Eno, Eric Harvey and Rob Pope gel with one another. It is the mark of a great band when a variety of voices can blend together this seamlessly.
There are few Spoon songs that make a more convincing argument for Britt Daniel’s ability as a storyteller than “Eddie’s Ragga.” Feeling more like a short story than an indie rock song, the lyrics focus on the detailed minutiae of its characters lives: “Someone that I knew but I hardly met / Told me it’s hopeless, I’m a slut for the New York Times / She made my heart soft, worn an aiguillette on her arm / She never been to Texas, never heard of King Kong.” It’s an intricate account, followed by an extended jam session for the band that fades into a distorted echo. Marrying the unique lyrics with an addictive beat, Spoon is able to have their cake and eat it, too.
The song that brought along with it stardom, “The Underdog” became an unavoidable smash success, featured on airways and movies, such as I Love You, Man, twice in Horrible Bosses, and even in last week’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. The relentless beat follows the cadence of a mid-career Billy Joel tune, and as such, it is nearly impossible to ignore. With its blaring horn section, the song has served as a pump up track since its release. The catchy tune is beautifully resolved by the crash of a piano knocked over by eccentric producer Jon Brion. It’s the song the band will never be able to escape, not that they would want to.
On “My Little Japanese Cigarette Case,” Britt Daniel makes the most of a variation of the same three repeated lines: “It’s just my Japanese cigarette case / Bring a mirror to my face / Let all my memories be gone.” The song plays to the desire to get out of your own head space, growing in intensity as the speaker uses mind-altering substances to do so. As the track spirals toward chaos, we are treated to a variety of international sounds, including acoustic guitar interruptions that sound like they came out of a Latin American serenade and string arrangements straight from the Far East.
Spoon uses “Finer Feelings” to address the pressures placed upon the band to find mainstream success: “They told me stop scouting the field / They told me have a look in commercial appeal / And start getting that hair cut sharp.” The whole track takes place in a dreamlike world, becoming the soundtrack to a hallucination. The longest song on the album, “Finer Feelings” spans genres, separated by an acoustic guitar break reminiscent of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” This is the perfect song for driving around the streets of a deserted town in the middle of the night.
Coming down from the extended drug trip that is Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, “Black Like Me” is the most sobering song on the album. It drifts in and out of styles and capitalizes on an array of distorted background sounds in a way that calls to mind the medley on the second half of Abbey Road. On vinyl pressings of the album, there is no run-out groove, poetically punctuating the song with an endless loop of silence.
Much like Good News for People Who Love Bad News had done for Modest Mouse three years prior, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga proved that Spoon was ready to sustain a large-scale audience. The album is a constant push and pull between bouncy melodies and deeply affecting confessionals, without ever sacrificing the potency of either. It borrowed from the most audacious aspects of the band’s previous five albums and served as the ideal bridge between the unfiltered sound Spoon had already crafted and the band that they were destined to become.