To call Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga one of the year's two or three best rock albums is to overstate how much it sounds like a rock album. There's no mistaking its imperturbable swagger and seething refrains for anything else — Spoon still knows how to write a song that could fit into each of rock's past five decades without tipping toward any one in particular. But even songs on Ga Ga that traffic in guitars don't sound like they were written with guitars in mind. Spoon sounds more interested now in drums and empty space, both of which sparkle and boom in ways that make singer Britt Daniel sound positively electrified to be in their presence.
The sparse and experimental lean of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga places it closer to the group's 2002 breakthrough Kill the Moonlight than its bash-minded follow-up Gimme Fiction. “Don't Make Me a Target” opens on a note of resignation and rage, with portentous guitar and piano that build toward a sort of atonal rockabilly jam about two minutes in. From there, though, the album takes on an air of mystery with “The Ghost of You Lingers,” a gorgeous and terrifying ballad in which Daniel's distended voice duels with blasts of static and more reverb than could ever sound earthly. The jarring tonal shift into “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” proves perverse but, as goes for most of Spoon's moves at this point, not overly pleased with itself: After bells and slappy drums enter like Phil Spector as summoned by David Lynch, the buoyant tune takes over and lodges into that part of your brain where pleasurable pop hooks go and stay mum.
What sticks most on Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is the grain and range of Daniel's voice, which must have been miked a dozen different ways to capture his timbral moods in tracks as disparate as “Don't You Evah” (Spoon's most funky song yet, by a good measure) and “The Underdog” (Spoon's most Billy Joel-like song yet, to the same degree). Nothing Daniel does has ever sounded labored, but Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga finds him and his band with a newly refined balance between craft and restraint.