Spoon - “Waiting for the Kid to Come Out” (Live)
Sasha Frere-Jones, a critic whose opinion I often find myself respecting, says that “Waiting for the Kid to Come Out”, from the Soft Effects EP (1997), is the “first great Spoon song”:
The first great Spoon song, “Waiting for the Kid to Come Out,” was released in 1997, when Daniel was twenty-five. The strategies that made it work are central to Spoon’s most successful tracks: reduction, precision, and confusion. The song starts with two guitar chords and sticks with them. Daniel plays only the chords’ bottom notes and doesn’thit the strings very hard, providing enough notes to make the harmony clear, but no more. He begins the verse in a relaxed, conversational voice that is both clotted and grainy. “This is the electric lounge; no one’s afraid to laugh,” he mumbles, eliding the first “e” of “electric.” “They say, ‘C’mon, man, just let me break your back.’ ” The vowels in “laugh” and “back” are soft and long. (In an interview, Daniel attributed his vocal style to his experience in an elementary-school choir: “The way they taught us to sing was to sing like you’re British. Instead of ‘ar’ you say ‘ah.’ You don’t sing ‘car,’ you sing ‘cahhh.’ ”) Then the rest of the band—a bass player and a drummer—joins in; the drummer, Jim Eno, plays a two-bar solo that might be called a roll, if the word didn’t seem too extravagant for a maneuver consisting of so few hits. (It’s as if Eno were merely testing each drum in his kit.) The chorus introduces two new guitar chords, and Daniel shifts from talking to a more open-throated sound, though he doesn’t produce much in the way of melody until the end, when he sings the words “Let it bleed,” the title of a famous Rolling Stones album. The album has no obvious relevance to the song, which seems to describe a drug deal, except that Spoon shares the Stones’ affinity for both skeletal guitar rock and classic soul music.
The parsimony of this aesthetic isn’t as frustrating as it sounds: the song is a thrill. Daniel stages the addition of each sound the way Harold Pinter uses pauses to set off lines of dialogue; what eventually unfolds seems meaningful, though you’d be hard pressed to say much about it. Daniel alternates between phrases that don’t sound as if they belonged in a song—“in the tradition of your nationalized tracts”—and lyrics that seem so generic they could show up in any song: “This is like being alive.” Everyone in the band plays with a restraint that makes the track sound timeless, as though it could have appeared on any rock record of the past forty years.
I think anyone who listened to “Cvantez” earlier today might find his assertion of this being their first great song debatable, at least, but it is definitely a great song, and you can’t fault Sasha for a lack of analysis to back his claim up. One person who might agree with him is Britt Daniel, who is never shy about admitting when his own work is good (why should he be?), but who often seems a bit embarrassed by Telephono:
DM: Do you still like those old records?
Britt Daniel: Yeah. I like “Series of Sneaks” and “Soft Effects.” A lot.
Jim Eno: Not “Telephono,” though?
Britt Daniel: Hey, I didn’t say anything. (Laughs)
There’s definitely a growth, a refinement of sound that occurs from Telephono to Soft Effects, and from there into Sneaks; but it is more continuous, if you ask me, than that which occurs from Sneaks to Girls Can Tell. The Elektra debacle, and the turn of the millenium, seemingly left Spoon a different band. (Well, not really: there a lot of the early sound in last year’s Transference, as we will discuss tomorrow.)
Note: This live clip, which is awesome, is from 1997 and was filmed in Austin’s Electric Lounge, which you’ll note is also mentioned in the first line of the song.