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On 'Cigarette Case,' Spoon Is a Band of Few Words

Spoon's songs are rarely about any one ingredient, words included.
Spoon's songs are rarely about any one ingredient, words included.

A scant three lines long, the lyrics to Spoon's "My Little Japanese Cigarette Case" couldn't be more minimal: "It's just my Japanese cigarette case / Bring a mirror to my face / Let all my memories be gone." They've come and gone by the time the first 15 seconds of the song have elapsed, and even with minuscule variations over the course of their multiple repetitions, there's still not enough room to squeeze in the entire title.

That gives the lyrics a koan-like simplicity — they're one line too long to be a haiku — that could prove overly ponderous if they were the lone focus. But a Spoon song is rarely about any one ingredient, words included, and "Case" serves as a prime example of how the band fits the pieces together to create a structure that might well collapse if any one of them were removed.

Frankly, "Case" sounds on the verge of imploding as it is, with an acoustic-guitar solo that might be called flamenco if it weren't so scattershot and an otherwise-simple quarter-note pulse, which creates the illusion that the song's center is constantly shifting. But then, just as the listener is on the verge of total disorientation, the lyrics pop back in, make their point, and vanish once again as Spoon goes back to riding the music.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Marc Hirsh
Marc Hirsh lives in the Boston area, where he indulges in the magic trinity of improv comedy, competitive adult four square and music journalism. He has won trophies for one of these, but refuses to say which.