Never ones to stray far from the beaten path, Texas-based indie pop outfit Spoon have remained one of the most consistent bands in alternative rock. Over the course of 20 years and eight (!) studio albums, Spoon has been moving at breakneck speed in perfecting their blend of clear-eyed minimalist rock and cool-guy swagger.
Despite a breakthrough of sorts in the mid-00s with their song “The Way We Get By” appearing on the soundtracks to Stranger Than Fiction and the hit teen drama series The O.C., it’s their solid songwriting and hard work ethic that have granted Spoon their alt-rock status.
Spoon’s latest output, They Want My Soul, finds the veteran band pushing those mathematically precise melodies and clever instrumentation into more surprising, yet familiar territories. Rather than sounding burned out, which 2010’s Transference had hints of (half the album was in demo form after all), they sound refreshingly alive, loud, and more confident than ever after a four year break.
They Want My Soul rips right open with the festival-ready stomper “Rent I Pay.” Brittle, distorted Stones-esque guitars rub against the grain of drummer Jim Eno’s gut-punching kick and snare hits before frontman Britt Daniel begins with his smirky trademark rasp. It’s by far the most rousing track Spoon has laid to tape in years and probably the most straight up “classic” rock song I’ve heard in a while.
“Rent I Pay” segues flawlessly into the gorgeous R&B-inspired “Inside Out.” A trip-hop beat and some sparse (harp?) provide the backdrop for Daniel’s latest soulful musings on… whatever he muses about. Easy-to-follow lyrics have never been part of Spoon’s meticulously crafted repertoire, usually opting for the cryptic. But he might be troubled here. Hopeful, but troubled.
More often than not, Britt Daniel brings to mind late 60s era Lennon in his vocal phrasings and melodies, confirmed with the Bealtes cover “I Just Don’t Understand,” which sits in nicely towards the back of the album between spoon-by-the-numbers joints “They Want My Soul” and “Let Me Be Mine.”
Daniel is content to ride out the grooves for the remainder of the album before arriving at the magnificent finish line that is “New York Kiss.” An upbeat and dancey tale of another one of Daniel’s intoxicated nights out, wandering around the empty streets deep into morning, ruminating on some lost love and being “half out of a bag,” as he puts it on “Rainy Taxi.” He’s been that same guy for 20 years now, and nobody really seems to really mind. In fact, let’s hope he stays that way for another 20.
Bottom line: Pretty solid overall. If you know the band, you pretty know much exactly what you’re in for. Great for cleaning the house to on a Saturday before heading out for the night.
They Want My Soul is now available on iTunes.