Britt Daniel, the lanky, Ichabod Crane-ish frontman of Texans Spoon, builds songs not from chords, but elastic. On "30 Gallon Tank" from Series of Sneaks, the 1998 album that ended Spoon's star-crossed major-label flirtation, the band stretched a tremoloed guitar, a bass wobble, a snare-heavy beat and Daniel's rhythmic chanting into four minutes of near-perfection — without recording a single excess note.
When Spoon have faltered — as they did on Girls Can Tell (2001), their weakest record (although it's still quite good) — flabby arrangements have been the culprit. Like a jockey, swimmer or stock car, Spoon songs thrive when light and stripped. There's no coincidence that those comparisons are kinetic, as songs such as Gimme Fiction's "I Turn My Camera On" succeed because of their physicality; their music is intensely muscular, even when played by three slight men at mid-tempo. (Nearly every Spoon song is mid-tempo — in fact, there isn't a single ballad or rocker on Gimme Fiction; every song falls somewhere in-between.) "I Turn My Camera On" moves as if jittering on a fulcrum, rocking from side to side with the ever-shifting weight of Daniel's staccato guitar chugs and Jim Eno's snare thwacks.
Gimme Fiction, Spoon's fifth album, rarely gathers moss. Aside from the dad-rock of "Sister Jack," a tepid amalgam of latter-day Guided By Voices and Wilco's "A Shot in the Arm," it's gloriously devoid of fat. The excellent "I Summon You" recalls Spoon's own "The Agony of Laffitte" (a dis track directed at their former Elektra A&R man); the dreamy "Was It You?" is their most adventurous cut to date; and "My Mathematical Mind," the album's best song, endlessly repeats a hypnotic melody, looping it so many times that it develops an orbit and, eventually, a magnetic field that will yank you in by the belt buckle. For many bands, Gimme Fiction would be a career pinnacle; for Spoon, it's just another excellent record.