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Music

Doctor's Orders: Spoon's Britt Daniel prescribes his ten essential albums

@TylerGolsen

Spoon leader Britt Daniel was a little bit caught off guard when the concept of Doctor’s Orders was explained to him. With a laugh and a slight hesitancy, he believed that he was just talking about ten of his favourite albums. And yet, in a roundabout way, Daniel was able to communicate the depth of power and uplifting feeling that his favourite music means to him without ever getting too schmaltzy or saccharine.

Call it the Spoon special – a strangely endearing cocktail of raw emotion, raucous rock and roll, acerbic wit, and genuine pathos. For over 25 years, Daniel and his crew of alt-rockers have been bringing built-to-last anthems to ever-increasing crowds of loyal fans. Through scuzzy punk, dry funk, dazed electronica, and back again, Daniel has brought post-punk and singer-songwriter sensibilities back into the world of rock.

But Daniel doesn’t have any kind of ego about it. Things keep changing, but Spoon remains impressively immune to anything and everything that might bring them down: lineup changes, genre shifts, the ebbs and flows of the music business, coronavirus. It took twenty years for Daniel to even consider a greatest hits album, and when he finally did, he also insisted that a compilation of songs voted on by fans was issued alongside it. It takes a lot to stick to your guns the way Daniel has, but he makes it seem easy. In his mind, it seems, there’s no other choice.

Baulking at even trying to interpret the idea of nostalgia, admitting: “I never know what people mean by nostalgic”, Daniel simply does what he wants. Spoon rarely play the hits package on tours, preferring to let their current material speak for them. But we managed to get Daniel to look back on some of the albums and artists who made him who he is, from old-school classics to modern favourites.

In partnership with CALM, we’ve asked a selection of our favourite artists and public figures to share nine (or in this case ten) records that they would prescribe for anyone and the stories behind their importance. Doctor’s Orders sees some of our favourite musicians, actors, authors, comedians and more offer up the most important records, which they deem essential for living well.

If you’re able, and if you can afford to, please consider a small donation to help the CALM cause. £8 can answer one potentially life-saving call.

See Britt Daniel’s full list of choices down below.

Britt Daniel’s ten favourite albums:

Prince Buster – Wreck a Pum Pum

For his first pick, Daniel went with rocksteady legend Prince Buster, whose influence was able to make it all the way into Daniel’s world with 1968’s Wreck a Pum Pum.

“I found out about this record in 2009, I think maybe 2010,” Daniel says. “And I’d never heard rock steady music before it filled in a lot of blanks for me. But I guess to, to carry on with your theme, this record does just set me in a good mood. Every single song is a good time. I think every one of them, or maybe not every one of them, but pretty near every one of them is about sex.”

Daniel also shared a funny story about what happened when he showed Wreck a Pum Pum to Deerhunter singer Bradford Cox: “I gave this record to Bradford Cox for his birthday and he was appalled. I think he said, ‘How can this Prince Buster take the melody from something like ‘Little Drummer Boy’ and turned it into this perversion?’ [Laughs]. Bradford’s sensitive though.”

(Credit: Press)

Bodega – Endless Scroll

Next up is New York punks Bodega and their 2018 debut album Endless Scroll. Produced by Parquet Courts guitarist Austin Brown, the album almost got replaced in his list by Bodega’s not-yet-released second album, which Daniel has heard before anyone else.

“I wanted to put their new album here because I’ve heard it and it’s even better than this one, but it’s not out just yet,” Daniel shares. “But of this record, my favourite is ‘Jack In Titanic’. When I first heard this song, it was my favourite song for about two weeks. I love that they can write a song about the quest of looking for boxes when it’s moving time, you know? I just found that super relatable and super unique that they would think to do that.”

(Credit: Press)

Bo Diddley – Bo Diddley

Back when Bo Diddley was inventing his own version of rock and roll in the mid-1950s, the album era wasn’t even underway yet. Instead, all of Diddley’s biggest hits were compiled onto one long play, 1958’s self-titled Bo Diddley, and the results are some of the most revolutionary songs to ever be put on record.

“He’s doing the blues, but he’s pulling it into a new form and style,” Daniels says. “And in a lot of ways, he’s just inventing rock and roll on this record. I like to imagine that, you’re right in the thick of the clean-cut fifties, and here’s Bo Diddley making his own guitars, inventing his own effects, inventing tape machines, wearing his horn-rimmed glasses and plaid – he’s just a true original.”

(Credit: Press)

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin I

Even someone who has his finger on the pulse of underground music and modern upcoming acts can’t resist the sheer might of Led Zeppelin. For Daniel, it’s the band’s first album that truly connects in ways that the band’s subsequent records don’t quite match in the same way.

Daniel’s misprinted version of the album led to a unique listening experience. “I got this album first on cassette when I was in high school and on my cassette it was misprinted somehow: side one was what you guys know of as side two and side two is what you guys know of as side one. And you’ll never be able to convince me that ‘Your Time Is Gonna Come’ should not be song one of this album, ‘Black Mountain Side’ should not be song two, ‘Communication Breakdown’ isn’t one of the greatest song threes on an album of all time. It’s just, it’s the way it should be.”

(Credit: Press)

PJ Harvey – To Bring You My Love

Daniel has nothing but praise for PJ Harvey, an iconoclastic English alt-rocker who endeared herself to Daniel on her first three records. In fact, Daniel gives her third album, 1995’s To Bring You My Love, a rare distinction.

Daniel explains: “This one is maybe my favourite record of the ’90s. I love the production on it. I loved her from her first record [1992’s Dry] and I liked the second one [1993’s Rid of Me] even more than the first, but this one was a completely unexpected next step where you can see, at this point, PJ Harvey is like an arrow shooting straight for the sun. She’s ascending and on the way to glory, and it’s just inevitable with this record.”

(Credit: Press)

The Kinks – Face to Face

When deciding which Kinks record he was going to put on the list, Daniel wound up sticking with his first, 1966’s Face to Face. As a budding songwriter himself, Daniel took away important lessons from this particular time in The Kinks’ career.

“This is the first Kinks record I got and it’s still my favourite,” Daniel says. “It’s, to me, in the sweet spot between the best era – the pure teenage blues-based rock and roll garage rock, if you will, and the insightful literary kind of intricate songwriting that they became all about. And it’s got both of those things in spades on this record.”

“It’s just a songwriter in transition right here,” he continues. “And this album taught me how you could write a song about the smallest thing. Like there’s ‘Rosie, Won’t You Please Come Home’ about how he wanted a sister to move back home, and then there’s ‘Party Line’ about a telephone party line, and ‘The Session Man’, about a session man. It just taught me that it didn’t matter. You could write about these very narrow subjects and that was kind of glorious.”

(Credit: Press)

A Giant Dog – Pile

Austin’s A Giant Dog is not the most well-known rock band in the world, but Daniel couldn’t resist giving a shout out to his home-state heroes and their 2016 album Pile. Pro tip: if you’re in Austin and want to run into Britt Daniel, try going out to a show by A Giant Dog, chances are you’ll see him there.

“I see them all the time,” Daniel explains. “Just recently I saw some review of this record, or maybe just a passing comment on this record, and it was something about, ‘This is the greatest punk rock album of the past 10 years’, and I can’t disagree, although it’s a lot more than just a punk record. That doesn’t really say enough about its contents. It’s just great songwriting. I see A Giant Dog every time they play. If I’m in the state and I’m not doing my own show, I will be there.”

(Credit: Press)

James Brown – Live at the Apollo Theatre

Conspicuously, despite being a killer in-person concert experience, Spoon have never released a live album. Daniel’s isn’t a big fan of the format and claims that it was only after he heard James Brown’s legendary 1963 magnum opus Live at the Apollo Theatre.

“I didn’t like live albums much before I heard this record,” Daniel claims. “But this one convinced me that you could do something in that medium that was essential. It didn’t sound like an exercise in getting out of a seven record deal, or just some kind of filler that you throw out there into the market.”

“That’s because the performance is inspired, and you can hear that on the record – you can feel it from the record and the audience is going crazy because of that,” he adds. “I just listen to the way the crowd reacts on this record. You can tell it’s real and I love that you can hear them so closely.”

(Credit: Press)

Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes

When it came to expressing the trapped feeling of being a clueless kid in the middle of nowhere, Daniel found the perfect record to relate to in 1983’s Violent Femmes, the debut from the Milwaukee folk-punk trio that Daniel described as “a rite of passage”.

“When I first heard this record, I guess you’d say it was the music kids that were older than me,” Daniel says. “I had this impression that the album was from long ago, and I guess that speaks to the perception of time as you age, but I think it was maybe ’86 and this record came out in ’80 [sic]. But something about the music felt so unmarked by any specific time period that I had this impression that it was ancient.”

“The lyrics were personal and dirty and real,” Daniel continues. “I never heard any lyrics like that, at least not until I heard The Modern Lovers later on. They got it perfectly – what it was like to be a kid in America, a kid in a small town like me who wanted nothing more than just to get in a car and drive and not have anyone to answer to for a few hours.”

(Credit: Press)

The Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Primary Colors

For his final pick, Daniel goes with another classic indie rock record: the Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s 2008 sophomore album Primary Colors. Anyone who follows Daniel closely won’t find this to be a surprise, as Daniel has covered a few songs from this album in his live shows over the years.

“I love this record,” Daniel enthuses. “I’ve tried it out in a few settings and I think it’s meant to be played out of a boombox at a house party. Also, incidentally, this is one of my favourite band names ever. [Laughs] It’s still great. We used to cover ‘Memory Lane’ – we should probably bring it back. And in my other band, Divine Fits, we covered ‘Wrapped Up’.”

“Fantastic songs on here,” Daniel concludes. “When you listen to this record, you can hear that they’re learning it as they’re recording it. You know, it’s got that energy. You could say that they were unprepared, or you could say maybe they’re inspired. It’s a fine line.”

(Credit: Press)