Albums / EPs, Reviews

Album Review: Spoon – They Want My Soul

As evinced on the emphatically titled, They Want My Soul, Spoon as an entity is not by any means waning. Yet today…

 

As evinced on the emphatically titled They Want My Soul, Spoon as an entity is not by any means waning. Yet today Spoon devotees can seem of a bygone era. Harsher critics might be ungracious enough to say that the 20-year-old outfit suffers from a contemporary disconnect. But with 8 LP’s and 2 solid decades of critical acclaim amassed, it would be fair to say that Spoon have earned their right to a supercilious approach to such claims. Perhaps none more illustrative than the video for album single, ‘Do You’ – Britt Daniel blithely drives through a (painfully bizarre, toddler-led) apocalyptic landscape; still pondering love and desire and loss, whilst the rest of the world has found other things to fuss over. 

They’ve shrugged off the Pixies comparisons, and the comparisons to Wilco and Costello that came thereafter. For a long while, Spoon have earned and held the right to sound like Spoon: wistful and demanding, soulful and driving. They Want My Soul is their strongest and most accessible effort in years, yet it’s still plain that they’re still not giving anything away – neither souls nor anything in between,

Thankfully, this stamp of authority has not come at the expense of their almost painstakingly careful production work. If anything, the combined efforts of production heavyweights Joe Chiccarelli (Beck, The Strokes, U2) and Dave Fridmann (Tame Impala, Flaming Lips, MGMT) have made the glossy work even more meticulous and accessible. Jim Eno’s steady drumwork on ‘Inside Out’ thumps sinuously throughout, whilst Britt Daniel’s voice lofts over a keyboard melody that rattles back and forth between one’s eardrums. ‘Knock Knock Knock’, on the other hand, is at one moment brash and noisy, and then quiet and pondering in the next. And Spoon are unique in that they do not baulk at the notion of self-reference either; the fuzzed static that bursts forth between the crests of the track is reminiscent of the highest summits of the 2007’s excellent Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.  ‘Knock Knock Knock’, as the title suggests, is darker and more ominous, but it still sounds like the musical cousin of Ga Ga…’s ‘Eddie’s Ragga’ – thriving upon Spoon’s sparks of spontaneity that one would think they’d long forgotten how to capture. 

Spoon’s enduring appeal has always been their ability to so thoroughly sell romanticism at the risk of mawkishness. In fact, Daniel’s unflinching approach to it all could make you fall in love with the very idea all over again. Slightly weathered, Spoon still appear to be a band deeply affected by everything surrounding them and it leaves little room for false pretence. It’s how they manage to sound so assured, while only offering doubts and contradictions to every question of heartbreak and despair. Their mindset pivots from, “Will you call me your baby when you hold my hand?” on ‘They Don’t Understand’, to “If you leave you better run away for good” on ‘Rainy Taxi’. Even though all 5 members are well into their 40s, it’s at times like this when they possess the single-minded bleeding heart of a teenager that willingly endures and endears.

Title track ‘They Want My Soul’ is a singularly emphatic moment – lambasting all those countless affecters and disparagers they’ve encountered along the way. It’s a doubtless reminder that they remain as faithful to their convictions as ever. They even go so far as to self-reference – once more – their 2002 LP Kill The Moonlight’s school yard bully ‘Jonathon Fisk’. And apparently he’s not to diminish their inherent, fallible and yet buoyant spirit either. To this end and in the luxurious space of having answered all the questions they feel need answering, they’ve shunted that responsibility from themselves and upon everything around them. Album highlight ‘Do You’ is classic rock fodder, one for talk-show appearance audiences, but its questions only burn brighter as it hiccoughs and coos along. In a way that only Spoon can manage, the lyrics seem to evolve and even disappear altogether leaving entirely too much room for a listener’s own contemplations to take their place. 

It’s the benefit of a relatively short, solid album in which they’ve said all they have to say; modestly allowing a thousand rewarding permutations to grow out from that steady core upon subsequent visits. That’s why when Britt Daniel raspingly asks, ‘Do you run when it’s just getting good?’ it’s not a really question at all. There’s no doubt that, for now, Spoon have got it all figured out. 

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