Colorado songwriter mixes obscenity and emotional heft with huge pop melodies
Spoon - 'They Want My Soul'
Four years after their surprise success, the Texan five-piece are back with a cult album in the making
Daniel has tried to frame this album as some kind of new chapter - just take a look at the online teaser that trailed the release of ‘They Want My Soul’ earlier this summer, which declared “Spoon R.I.P.” in white letters on a black background. It turned out to be a reference to opening track ‘Rent I Pay’, but also seemed to be playing with the idea of some kind of break with the past.
It’s not, although there are some minor changes. There’s a new band member, guitarist Alex Fischel, who Daniel met while playing with Divine Fits, the US indie ‘supergroup’ whose other members included Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner and New Bomb Turks drummer Sam Brown. It’s also the first record on which Spoon have worked with outside producers; Dave Fridmann (The Flaming Lips, MGMT) and Joe Chiccarelli (Morrissey, The Strokes) share those duties. None of it has made much discernible difference to Spoon’s hybrid of indie-pop and alt-rock, however. ‘Rent I Pay’ opens with Jim Eno hammering at a snare before a chopping guitar slides in and Daniel barks the lines, “Out amongst the stars and the stones/Every fortune gets old”. It’s vintage Spoon, a neat balancing act that offsets the kind of melody that digs in and won’t let go with a hard-hitting, raw edge.
If there’s a difference from their previous work, it’s that the track, like the whole album, is lightly coated with distortion. It’s a fuzziness that continues on ‘Inside Out’, which sees Daniel musing on love and religion over a jabbing keyboard that fades into a rippling synth soundscape. Meanwhile, a version of Swedish-American singer Ann-Margaret’s 1961 song ‘I Just Don’t Understand’ (as covered by The Beatles) takes things in the other direction, comprising just acoustic strums, chords bashed out on a piano and Daniel hollering like a drunk.
In the end, the most important thing about ‘They Want My Soul’ is the time Spoon have taken to make it. Planned or accidental, they’ve allowed their success after ‘Transference’ to cool. In all other respects, nothing much has changed. Spoon are still a band you can fall in love with, knowing it's an acquired taste. Indeed, long-time fans will draw parallels with records like 2001's 'Girls Can Tell' and 2005's 'Gimme Fiction' from Spoon's back catalogue. Those albums were evidence of a band at ease with their off-kilter appeal, and their supporters knew it. ‘They Want My Soul’ is a cult record in the making from the quintessential cult group. Normal service has been resumed.
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