The doldrums of summer are upon us, with their usual dearth of quality new releases. Thankfully help is on the way, the band Spoon, hailing from Austin, Texas, comes to the rescue by releasing their exceptional eighth album” They Want My Soul”, saving us all from summer ear lassitude. Spoon re-enters the music scene with a new label and the production team of Joe Chiccarelli and David Fridmann , offering a fantastic sonic delight. The new disc drops the druggy claustrophobia of 2010’s “Transference” and instead offers a hook laden, genre morphing release. A possible companion piece to 2007’s “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga”. These songs are meticulously crafted but crack with originality.
Spoon members took a four year break from each other after the completion of “Transference”. Each member went off to numerous side projects. As Britt Daniel, vocalist and guitarist for the band stated, “We needed a break, but we’ve gotten excited about making music again.” Proof the break did them immeasurable good is evinced on every tune on the release. All the band members are back, Britt Daniel, Vocals and guitar, Jim Eno, Drums, Eric Harvey, keyboards and guitar and Rob Pope on bass. With 20 plus years as a band, they have travelled the path of rock music some notable distance. They are familiar with the struggle to maintain your inner well being, in a business that often demands the sale of those beliefs at bargain basement prices. Spoon is a band that seems to have figured out what they need to do to preserve their dignity and survive. Can this recording finally move them beyond being the other band from 1993 with serious Pixies worship and propel them into wider popularity? With “They Want My Soul” they are definitely attempting the feat.
“They Want My Soul” dips into a lot of past genres and artists. There is a little from Column A, songwriters like Lennon and Costello, and a little from Column B, The Cure, Shins, Modest Mouse, and the best of the Replacements. Most rock music is derivative; success comes from how deftly any band accomplishes the amalgam, and creates something that is their own. Spoon seems to have a grasp on that elusive alchemy.
The disc starts off with “Rent I Pay” a great drum intro pounding into a real rocker. This song should be on the radio. It has killer hooks, and is a great start off to the disc. Could the lyrics be discussing Karma? “Out amongst the stars and the stones, every kind of fortune gets old, every kind of line is gonna come back to me just as I go.” The song “Inside Out” is a surprisingly soulful tune, with a floaty keyboard and drums that just kick the last nail into the song. “Ooh, cause time’s gone inside out. I don’t make time for holy rollers. Mmm there is only you I need, they don’t make me complete.” The song is a crafty combination of Brit Pop with a hint of Roxy Music’s best work.
“Rainy Taxi” is a playful song reminiscent of Crowded House with a catchy bass and a bit of kitchen sink overdub. The gist of the track is that the world is going to pieces, but I can get through it all if you are here with me. “I came home last night, I had no good news. And you’ve been sleeping through the brightest flash of apocalyptic ruin. And if you leave, I’ll never sing another tune.”
“Do You” The song that takes all the silly fun of a relationship at its best and distils it into a song. “I was half out of a dive, yeah, I knew you saw me, you laughed when I looked back”. A catchy song, with a great chorus; “Do you want to get understood, Do you want one thing or are you looking for sainthood, do you run when it is just getting good?” the song reminds me of The Replacements’ ‘On the Bus” without the angst. Britt’s singing is just effortless on this tune, really noteworthy,
“Knock,Knock,Knock” Punchy acoustic guitar married to great keyboards. Déjà vu,
nothing changes no matter the promises made, in the world and in our daily relationships. Like the proverbial knock knock jokes we all grow tired of hearing. “Every time I hear Knock Knock Knock I know that it is you. Oh everyday I hear Knock Knock Knock.”
“Outlier”. An outlier is a person or anything that differs from all the other members in a particular group. This is an awesome song, great musicianship on this tune. The other songs are great but this one is amazing, it all comes together here. Best of the album with an insistent dance beat. Think Cure writ big, directly off of “Disintegration” but with a twist only Spoon could pull off. Really like the lyrics “Oh what happened to you kid? Yes and oh, what happened now? You never played us wrong, you never stayed too long.? (In a nod to full disclosure, I have listened to this song at least a dozen times today.)
“They Want My Soul” The joyfulness of the song belies the lyric, “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 is my soul. … Educated folk singers want my soul.” Reflecting society’s demands which come from every which way and either you come to peace and decide what the priorities are or succumb. In the song “I Just Don’t Understand” Britt channels his inner Lennon and Costello. A great ragtime piano combined with a chugging acoustic guitar make this song a treat. It is a break up song about confusion and misunderstanding. “Well you know that I love you more than anyone can. But a one sided love I just can’t understand.”
“Let Me Be Mine” Hooks galore abound in this song. I could see this one as a great highlight in concert. “Auction off what you love; it will come back some time.” The canard that you just sell yourself and it will eventually pay off. Wonder how many times the band has had heard that promise from the powers that be over the band’s career?
“New York Kiss” Very New Wave feel to the song. Listen for the marimba, the recording signs off with “right now I know no other time, right now I know no other place, I say good night.”
Not a weak song in the entire recording. It gets under your skin and demands another listen. It has a diverse palette and there is something here for every listener. Some would say that scattershot approach is not ideal, but it comes off as a focused attack at a wider audience, and dare I say marketability. Some have asked does that marketability water the band’s work down, and make them sell outs? I think that question is irrelevant because here they are still intact after hundreds of other bands are long gone, not diminished and offering up a hell of a record. Hopefully with I tunes featuring a free listen prior to release, more ears will hear this remarkable album.