Spoon is something of an institution at this point. When you think of the leaders of indie at the moment, Arcade Fire and Animal Collective probably jump to mind first, but Spoon is a fixture of college dorms across the country, and I think if somebody says "ugh, I hate this shit, change the song" when a Spoon track is playing you're legally allowed to revoke their status as a person. They're a hard group to argue with, because arguably no group has been more consistently excellent over the last ten years, and musically they've got the charisma of ten similar bands.
It's largely due to that charisma that they can get away with albums like Transference.
That is not to say that this is a bad album, simply that it is a Spoon album. Have you heard a Spoon album before? Congratulations, you know precisely what to expect from Transference. There will be catchy hooks, sexy vocals and funny lyrics when they make sense at all. No risks are taken, no expectations exceeded or disappointed.
There is a little bit more of a pop edge to this album than their past efforts. Certainly the single "The Mystery Zone", with lines like "Make us a house, some far away town/Where no one will know us well and your dad's not around" evoke a sense of almost classic-rock style optimism. Similar musings on love and life are not unlike the material on their previous albums, but they have a sense of earnestness and sincerity of wonder that replaces the wry sarcasm of albums like Gimme Fiction.
This is, once again, not to say this is a bad album, and that relative optimism and slightly poppier production are really the only things that set this apart from any of their other albums. Rob Pope deserves to be mentioned as one of the best bassists working in indie rock today and the smart mix of piano and radio-rock guitar fundamentals is still going strong. "Written In Reverse" grooves like nobody's business and their penchant for witty nonsense in songs like "Trouble Comes Running"("Slaves are on the horses, princes walk the grounds like they're slaves") is as charming as it always was.
This is fundamental Spoon, and you can argue that they're using the same old bag of tricks that they've been utilizing for the past ten years. Just look at that prick on the cover, all lounging around and glancin' sideways like he's better'n me! But the material here doesn't sound bored or stagnant. The songs are still lively and sharp and the songwriting hasn't gone stale yet. It simply sounds like Spoon recognizes what they're good at, and what they're good at is...well, being Spoon.
In other words, this is a Spoon album for Spoon fans. If you're not expecting them to turn their formula on its head, if you're already a fan of their music, or if you're curious about the group and just want to hear some good old rock and roll with a dash of class, Transference won't let you down.
(Man, I don't think I've ever typed the word "Spoon" so many times in my life)