A Kind of “Hush!” Spoon, “Everything Hits At Once” (2001)

The interjection “Hush!” is well suited for politely hushing someone with its caressing -shh. You can extend the -shh persuasively. But what if you needed to issue a hush-command with a quicker startup and a harder termination, more like an ‘ut’ with an unaspirated ‘t’ or a really short ‘tch’? What if there wasn’t time to utter both syllables of “Shut up!”? We don’t have a solution in English. (I’ve never heard anyone say these words, but according to my dictionaries the French have “Chut!” and the Germans have “Pst!” while Spanish, which seemed such a long shot for this sort of thing that I almost didn’t check, has the urgent “Chitón!”–two syllables, but I can say it noticeably faster than “Shut up!”)

We may not have the word, but we can plug in a great sound from a Spoon album. The verse in the first track on Girls Can Tell, “Everything Hits At Once,” brews up to a striking climax late in its second phase when all the instruments in the band hit at once, including a hot stab of rhythm guitar that had been held back until that moment. (The rhythm guitar could very naturally have been chopping once or twice every measure; that it wasn’t was a typical spare-arrangement Spoonism.)

“Everything Hits At Once”  (The event is at :12 in this clip)

There’s a strong feeling of being suddenly snatched out of the music even as the music goes on. I thought I’d find on close inspection that the effect had been heightened by a production trick of increasing volume and then killing normal sustain and reverb right after the everything-hit-together note. But now I don’t think that’s the secret. It’s just a marvel of arrangement. The timing has much to do with it. In a 4/4 rhythm pattern with strong snare hits on beats 2 and 4, we can see in retrospect that a bit of complementary emphasis was thrown to the 1-beat in this measure with the loud high note of the vocal phrase, but then the true climax exploded jarringly a beat later, making the 2 louder and the following 3 comparatively hushed, quashed, intimidated.

Many of us first heard Spoon on Girls Can Tell, and I suspect I’m not the only one who got hooked on Spoon at the exact moment I’m describing.

As for remedying the English language–how about “Chup!”? To be explained as a contraction of “I challenge you to hush up forthwith.”


About Steve Smith

Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies and Director of Film Studies at Millsaps College
This entry was posted in Arrangements and Sounds, Rock Aesthetics and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Kind of “Hush!” Spoon, “Everything Hits At Once” (2001)

  1. Steve Smith says:

    You definitely filled a lacuna there.

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