It’s easy to be cynical about any “greatest hits” album as a cash grab by record companies or artists who are treading water with writer’s block. The Eagles Greatest Hits may have sold over 38 million copies, but the Dude was not an eager or willing purchaser. Then there is the “best of” collection, possibly for those bands who have not really had any hits, or who have already put out a greatest hits album, but are shamelessly milking the cash cow. Even murkier perhaps is the “essential” album, which is probably a highly subjective greatest hits, and may be a third attempt, after the greatest and the best of, to recoup some dubious overheads (perhaps an A&R’s executive cocaine habit). In each case it’s likely a “greatest” song is also one of “the best” songs and is also “essential”, so there should be no subsets in this particular Venn Diagram (although note there is a table coming up). And let’s not forget the trick of shoving on a new track to ensure the poor completists will invest again.
Spoon do not seem like a cynical band. In fact for their 2019 album Everything Hits at Once: The Best of Spoon, they released the “bonus” track separately on 7” vinyl so that the fans did not have to buy the entire album for just one track. Bonus points are therefore immediately awarded.
Spoon’s best of is surely not less than their greatest, as their best of is pretty, pretty good, as Larry D would say. In fact Everything Hits at Once is an unqualified joy for both existing fans and new listeners, who can pick this up and be dazzled by this non-chronological dose of some of Spoon’s greatest moments in their twenty five year indie rock history. Zippy and accessible, it successfully showcases the band at the height of their powers.
It’s a sharp and edgy listen, and the thirteen tracks whizz by at some pace: “I Turn My Camera On” throws down a funky, minimalist groove; “Do You” is a catchy singalong; “Rent I Pay” has an overwhelming thumping riff. Charismatic and versatile frontman Britt Daniel rasps through “Don’t You Evah” as if he were an American Liam Gallagher, but he can equally evoke Bowie as spacemen on “Hot Thoughts”. Spoon excel with quirky rock, from the insider indie of “The Way We Get By”, the idiosyncratic “You Got Yr Cherry Bomb”, and the rhythmic handclaps and brass of “The Underdog”. There are only a couple of slower tracks on this album: “Inside Out”, which is still stupidly catchy due to its’ repetitive electro synthesizer beat, and 2001 single “Everything Hits at Once”.
Most of the selections on Everything Hits at Once were in fact released as singles and the newly recorded track “No Bullets Spent” is a gritty and exciting addition. Taken as a whole, the collection is an almost faultless forty five minutes of musical delight (although to these ears, “Got Nuffin” and “I Summon You” were probably not essential to include).
Perhaps therefore it’s no surprise that reviews of the album were generally positive, but with one recurrent criticism – why was this or that track not included? It’s of credit to Spoon and their significant back catalogue that critics and fans could so readily come up with tracks they felt had been missed off the album.
As a separate project, fans were asked by the band to create an alternate “Best of” Spoon album as a playlist, with the winner being decided by number of followers. The winning compilation (put together by Jason Jezek) was released as a Record Store Day vinyl release for 2020 as All the Weird Kids Up Front (Más Rolas Chidas); runners-up included Tyler Darling, who is the person behind the great Spoon podcast, I Turn My Podcast On.
Weird Kids is billed as “hits and deep cuts from one hell of a band”, but there are in fact few “hits” on this selection, with more of a focus on the deep cuts, the experimental or, at least well less known. There is still a pull towards distinctive guitar riffs (“The Fitted Shirt”), but Weird Kids demonstrates Spoon’s less commercial side: extended wig-outs (“The Beast and Dragon, Adored”; “Is Love Forever?”) and atmospheric rhythmic indie akin to American krautrock (a run of five tracks made up of “Out Go the Lights”, “Who Makes Your Money”, “The Ghost of You Lingers”, “Paper Tiger” and “WhisperI’lllistentohearit”). These all evidence some fine musicianship from the band, but are at the more ‘difficult’ end of Spoon’s recorded history. Easier listening is the indie rock “Don’t Make Me a Target”, the piano driven “Tear It Down” and the dramatic “New York Kiss”.
For fans of statistics and fellow music nerds, it may be interesting, or not, to consider which albums were most pillaged for these two collections (and you can check out the table below if you’re feeling brave). Most tracks on Everything Hits at Once are taken from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007) and They Want My Soul (2014); for Weird Kids, the most popular album is Transference (2010). The clunky table does not show that only one track is repeated on both collections, “I Summon You”, from Gimme Fiction.
What does this mean, if anything? It seems to suggest that the general consensus is that Spoon’s best years to date have been in the middle of their career, and that the early albums Telephono and A Series of Sneaks (not referenced at all on either collection) are now considered less interesting than they were at the time.
Spoon’s last album, 2017’s Hot Thoughts, had at least three more tracks which could have been added to either of these releases (“Do I Have to Talk You Into It”, “Can I Sit Next to You” and “I Ain’t the One”), but it’s understandable that these were missed off to ensure that there was some emphasis on less recent history. This is a strong position for the band to be in, and may indicate that Spoon have only just got started, with some exciting years to come.
|Spoon Album||Everything Hits at Once||All the Weird Kids Up Front|
|A Series of Sneaks (1998)||0||0|
|Girls Can Tell (2001)||1||1|
|Kill the Moonlight (2002)||1||1|
|Gimme Fiction (2005)||2||2|
|Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007)||3||2|
|They Want My Soul (2014)||3||1|
|Hot Thoughts (2017)||1||2|
Release Date: 02 AUG 2019