Music: Spoon forks over the goods
Free Press Music Columnist
Hey, forgive us, Spoon! It’s not that we don’t love you, or that you haven’t knocked our socks off before. It’s just we didn’t expect your eighth album in 21 years to be your best.
If you call yourself a fan of alternative rock, I don’t need to introduce you to Spoon, the band that formed in Austin, Texas, in 1993. Last month they released “They Want My Soul,” their first album since 2010’s “Transference.”
Even the few bands that have seen as much critical acclaim as Spoon have often run out of creative steam by album No. 8, but in the case of the group comprised of original founders Britt Daniel and Jim Eno, veteran members Eric Harvey and Rob Pope, and brand new guitarist/keyboardist Alex Fischel, álbum número ocho has turned out to be the brightest star in a discography already festooned with heavenly bodies.
Again, it won’t come as a surprise to long-time Spoon fans, but newcomers who have read that the band took its name from a krautrock song may be shocked by the snare and guitar blast that launches album opener, “Rent I Pay,” and which owes a great deal more to AC/DC than Can. That musical gut-punch sets the pace for a record that never strays far from the traditional rock n’ roll blueprint, but which is adorned throughout by the sort of experimental fillips and aural gewgaws the band’s aficionados have come to expect.
Some of Spoon’s previous efforts have come off a bit cerebral and detached, but principal songwriter Daniel seems revitalized by Spoon’s four-year hiatus (during which he released an album with Fischel and Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner as Divine Fits). The songs on “They Want My Soul” have a lyrical immediacy and emotional impact that the band’s been working towards, but never so well achieved, since at least 2007’s “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.” Anyone who’s ever known the feeling of wanting to escape the modern world is going to understand when Daniel sings on the title track:
“Card sharks and street preachers want my soul.
All the sellers and palm readers want my soul.
Post sermon socialites,
park enchanters and skin tights—
All they want’s my soul.
Yeah, they want my soul.”
Likewise, the album’s only cover (of a 1961 Ann-Margret hit) feature simple, direct lyrics:
“Well, you say that you need me
like the ocean needs sand.
But they way you mistreat me,
I just don’t understand.”
It would have been hard to imagine the Britt Daniel — who was churning out heady song-poems like “The Beast and the Dragon, Adored” a decade ago — singing something so uncomplicated, but it’s a sign of Spoon’s maturity that the song doesn’t feel out of place on the new record.
Meanwhile, Daniel has also stepped up his vocal game. His singing on the new album is, in equal turns, restrained and ferocious. He modulates the mood, dialing it up and down between melancholy, angry and joyous, and occasionally finding a sweet spot where he seems to be simultaneously all three.
Recently, Gene Simmons of KISS declared, “Rock is dead.” I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts he hasn’t heard the new Spoon. Because in the hands of Daniel and company, rock n’ roll just got a makeover. And it sounds fabulous.
For more information about Spoon, visit http://www.spoontheband.com.
Craven Lovelace is the producer of the Notes Blog & Podcast at http://cravenlovelace.com/notesblog. He also writes about popular culture at the Cravenomena blog: http://cravenlovelace.com/cravenblog. You may find him on Facebook as well.
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