Spoon's story begins in Austin, Texas, as early as 1993. After two neglected albums and a somewhat traumatic dismissal from Elektra Records circa 1998, Spoon almost fell by the wayside. Luckily, the band's talent prevailed, and with a new artistic diligence and loyalty to independent labels, they made a gradual and respectable comeback, finally reaching the level of success falsely promised to them in the beginning.
"The Way We Get By," from 2002's Kill the Moonlight, is a particularly good introduction to Spoon's long and diverse career because it typifies one of their defining characteristics: a self-conscious devotion to punk "cool" mixed with a knack for commercial melodies and intelligent songwriting.
"The Way We Get By" is in a sense about apathy, and yet, it testifies to the band's passion and ambition, as well as their strikingly academic approach to their craft.
|Producer(s)||Britt Daniel, Jim Eno, Mike McCarthy|
|Musician(s)||Britt Daniel (Vocals), Eggo Johansson aka Britt Daniel (Keyboard), Jim Eno (Drums)|
|Learn to play||Sheet Music|
|Album||Kill the Moonlight|
Britt Daniel is a man who wears his influences proudly on his sleeve. The name of his band pays homage to the song "Spoon" by avant-garde krautrock group Can. But a song like "The Way We Get By" is unusually explicit, even for Daniel, as it basically tells us what soundtrack has been playing in his life: Iggy Pop. More specifically, Daniel references two songs from two separate albums by The Stooges, a band fronted by Iggy. The third, "Some Weird Sin," is actually from Iggy Pop's second solo album Lust For Life, which was produced and co-written by David Bowie. As Richard Adams says in The Complete Iggy Pop, "Some Weird Sin" is "one of the more obvious Bowie tunes" (96).
Musically, "The Way We Get By" is more akin to a restrained Bowie song than a Stooges romp. Like David Bowie, Britt Daniel demonstrates exceptional literacy and knows how to wrap a story in a concise little pop tune package. The lyrics abide by a simple poetic rhyme scheme and are laid out in a common verse/chorus/bridge structure.
The same cannot be said for the music of The Stooges, especially the free-form sludge-fest that is Fun House, nor can it be said for any album by Can. What this song takes from the Stooges musically is primarily its minimalist arrangement and organic approach to recording, as well as of course its subject matter. Its sparseness somewhat recalls the only Stooges album not referenced in the song, their eponymous debut.
Britt Daniel has also listed influences as diverse as The Kinks, The Damned, The Cure, Pavement, Prince, The Pixies, Wire, The Beatles, and The Everly Brothers.
Though Spoon is a contemporary band, their influence on other bands can be seen within the indie rock circuit. Bands influenced by Spoon include The Natural History, Ted Leo and The Pharmacists, The French Kicks, and Vampire Weekend.
John Cook with Mac McCaughan & Laura Balance, Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, The Indie Label That Got Big And Stayed Small (2009)
Though unabashedly self-congratulatory, this book is an easy and entertaining read, and definitely worth checking out. It has great photographs, great bands, and a chapter devoted entirely to the Spoon story.
Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, Please Kill Me (1996)
This is the definitive recollection of the early days of punk, told by the people who lived it. It walks you through the turbulent lives of the artists that greatly influenced Spoon and provided the subject matter for "The Way We Get By." This is a must-read for anyone interested in rock n' roll history in general.
Kill the Moonlight (2002)
This is the album on which "The Way We Get By" appears.
Gimme Fiction (2005)
This album includes some of the band's more recognizable tunes, such as "I Summon You," "I Turn My Camera On," and "My Mathematical Mind."
Spoon came out with a new, well-reviewed album in 2010.
Here's Daniel with a guitar, appearing (self-consciously?) cool and collected.
Britt Daniel and the band in a library.
The album cover for Kill the Moonlight
What are the hands reaching for?
Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
Britt Daniel helped put together the score for this film, which includes many of Spoon's studio tracks.
Spoon's Official Website
Interactive and visually appealing, Spoon's official website is also extremely comprehensive, with discography, lyrics to all songs, and bonus tracks, among all the other essentials.
See what veteran rock critic Robert Christgau has to say about Spoon's albums.
Interview with PopMatters
Click out of the annoying pop-up advertisement to read this concise interview with Britt Daniel about his songwriting.
"The Way We Get By"
Here's the studio version of the song.
Spoon live, 1997
See some great fan footage of Spoon in their element, allegedly from 1997.