A Series of Sneaks
|A Series of Sneaks|
|Studio album by|
|Released||April 28, 1998|
|Studio||Dogland, Cedar Creek, Music Lane, The Hit Shack, Blue World, and The Catacomb in Austin, Texas|
A Series of Sneaks is the second studio album released by the band Spoon. It was released in 1998 by Elektra, then re-released with The Agony of Laffitte CD single tracks added on in 2002 by Merge Records. Despite being overlooked critically and commercially upon release, the album has since attained cult status.
After Matador Records released the Soft Effects EP in January 1997, Spoon began work on their second full length record. The band had the option of releasing another record through Matador, however by mid-1997 singer Britt Daniel was contemplating leaving Matador, as he felt the indie label viewed Spoon's sound as too commercial. In the fall of 1997, they agreed to join the major label Elektra Records, officially signing in February 1998, once the new album had been completed. Josh Zarbo, who joined as bassist when work on the album was occurring during 1997, later pointed out that nearly everything had been recorded prior to the late 1997 Elektra deal. He states, "that record was pretty much made with Matador in the rearview mirror and Elektra not yet happening."
The music on this album has been compared to that of the Pixies, Wire, Pavement, Archers of Loaf, Gang of Four, Robert Pollard and The Fall. Jonathan Druy of AllMusic calls the band "guitar wizards who could package a variety of taut, terse, and inventive guitar sounds and unpredictable melodies into short, tight bursts one could still consider pop songs". Chris Morgan of Treble writes that despite "many of this album’s songs (being) two to three minutes or less, (with) some being ambient interludes between actual songs[...]Spoon reminds the listener that short does not necessarily mean incomplete or lazy", describing them as "a meticulous marriage of icy but melodic guitars, rigid bass and drums and Daniel’s assertive vocals." Mark Abraham of Cokemachineglow writes that "much of the beauty and tension comes from the incredibly interesting way Spoon plays with rhythm".
The same article also calls it "a concept-driven album that plays inertia and movement against one another as metaphors for individual growth, communal interaction, and persistence in the face of modernity". Daniel's lyricism has been described as "hallucinogenic" and "strangely wordy". The aforementioned AllMusic review writes that "amidst (the album's) sonic engagement, it is the search for meaning in music amidst the open roads and open spaces of the American Southwest that form a central character in Daniel's fragmented and oblique lyrical universe", elaborating further that "in a few brief lines, a drive to New York on the interstate becomes a meditation on rock and youth in "Car Radio," while "Metal School" seems to be a reassessment of the purpose of post-punk".
Through Elektra the band released A Series of Sneaks in April 1998. The album did not sell as well as the label had hoped, and by January 1999 it was already an out of print, deleted release. Regarding the record's lack of success, Britt Daniel remarked in 2019, "I remember we sold 1,200 copies [of Girls Can Tell] in the first week, which was almost as much as we had sold of all of A Series of Sneaks."
Four months after the release of Sneaks, Spoon's Elektra A&R man Ron Laffitte quit his job and that week the band was dropped from the label. Angry with Laffitte, who had promised to stick with the band, Spoon recorded a vindictive yet humorously-titled two-song concept single entitled "The Agony of Laffitte," which was released by Saddle Creek Records. They lamented their experience with the music business executive and questioned his motivations with the songs "The Agony of Laffitte" and "Laffitte Don't Fail Me Now".
|The Austin Chronicle|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
|Tom Hull - on the Web||A−|
A Series of Sneaks was positively received by critics upon release, the songs being praised by critics for their brevity, intelligent lyrics and abundance of catchy hooks. Nick Mirov of Pitchfork called it "one of the catchiest albums of the year".
Reviewing its 2002 reissue, David Peisner of Rolling Stone wrote that the album "hasn't lost any bite". Michael Chamy of The Austin Chronicle calls it one of the "great achievements of the late Nineties".
The album also went on to be included in several lists. Magnet ranked it at #29 on their "Top 60 Albums, 1993-2003" list. Pitchfork Media ranked the album at #54 on their original "Top 100 Favorite Records of the 1990s" list, though it was later excluded from the updated one. Treble magazine also ranked the album the 9th best of the decade.
Chris Morgan of Treble wrote that "It would be a bit hasty to say that A Series of Sneaks was ahead of its time, an achievement that is more daunting with every passing decade. Rather Spoon simply dusted off sounds of an era not yet fully appreciated by American audiences and it could be said that albums of this type were catalysts that made it possible for a band like Modest Mouse to become the next Green Day." Chris Deville of Stereogum finds the album "fun and exciting", calling it their "most underrated" and bemoaning its lack of success. The same magazine would go on to rank it the 5th best Spoon album. Bryan Sanchez of Delusions of Adequacy calls the album (with respect to the rest of their discography) a "game-changer that’s always overlooked because it’s not from this decade, because it’s rough around the edges, and because it’s probably the boldest – all reasons why it may just be their best", going on to state that "it has everything any music fan could love." Mark Abraham of Cokemachineglow wrote that while the album "(isn't) some forgotten ur-masterpiece that would stand high amongst a forest including Loveless, OK Computer or Nevermind [...] Its roots, however, spread wide throughout the ground that bore those same trees, feeding off their energy and yielding a gem of an indie rock album."
All tracks are written by Britt Daniel except where noted.
|2.||"The Minor Tough"||2:43|
|3.||"The Guestlist/The Execution"||2:03|
|5.||"30 Gallon Tank" (Daniel, Jim Eno)||4:00|
|8.||"June's Foreign Spell"||3:00|
|10.||"Metal School" (Daniel, Josh Zarbo)||2:54|
|11.||"Staring at the Board"||0:54|
|12.||"No You're Not"||1:43|
|13.||"Quincy Punk Episode"||2:17|
|16.||"Shake It Off"||2:44|
|17.||"I Could Be Underground"||2:06|
|15.||"Laffitte Don't Fail Me Now"||3:45|
|16.||"The Agony of Laffitte"||3:27|
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- Cook, John, Mac McCaughan, and Laura Ballance. Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, the Indie Label That Got Big and Stayed Small. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin of Chapel Hill, 2009. 
- "Spoon's 'A Series Of Sneaks' Turns 20". 4 May 2018.
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- Camden Joy, "Total System Failure", The Village Voice, January 18, 2000.
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- Chamy, Michael (June 21, 2002). "Spoon: A Series of Sneaks (Merge)". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved January 9, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-09-22. Retrieved 2014-09-18.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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- "Spoon: A Series of Sneaks". Q (186): 122. January 2002.
- Catucci, Nick (2004). "Spoon". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. p. 770. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
- Hull, Tom. "Grade List: Spoon". Tom Hull - on the Web. Retrieved January 27, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Peisner, David (June 4, 2002). "Spoon: A Series of Sneaks". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on December 28, 2009. Retrieved January 9, 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)