October 23, 2014 Spoon – They Want My Soul (Album Review)
A staple in dorm rooms for the last eighteen years, Austin, Texas’s Spoon has blazed a solid career based on smart, oftentimes quirky lyrics and subject matter coupled with tight playing. They continually teeter on the fringe musically with plenty of dynamics and sonic soundscapes, but always reel it in with solid pop sensibility. Now in 2014 the band is back with their first release since 2010’s Transference. Previously on Merge Records, Spoon are now on the roster for Loma Vista Records for the release of their sixth studio album They Want My Soul. Drummer Jim Eno and guitarist/singer Britt Daniel are the only founding members remaining with multi-instrumentalist Eric Harvey, bassist Rob Pope, and keys/guitarist Alex Fischel rounding out the lineup. Produced by Spoon, Joe Chiccarelli, and Dave Fridmann, They Want My Soul is stripped down, comparatively speaking to previous releases, with a sound that will appeal to both college kids and those with kids in college.
The album kicks things off with a propulsive drum beat layered with simple guitar, announcing Spoon’s return with a vengeance. “Rent I Pay” is a straightforward rock tune that leads right into the second track, “Inside Out”, which starts with a pseudo hip hop beat topped with bouncy, and eventually trippy keys. With lyrics like “I don’t got time for holy rollers/Though they may wash my feet/And I won’t be their soldier” is the track a simple track decrying the war machine and longing for love? Maybe, or maybe not. Either way, it is relaxed and rollicking at the same time. “Rainy Taxi” follows with more fast-paced backbeats provided by a chugging bass line and quick drumming. Swirling organ fills and staccato guitars come to the fore making for an intricate pop romp about daring a lover to leave. Next, “Do You” could easily be a staple on a variety of radio platforms. With a great hook it is a simple song about a girl, and who could ask for anything more.
Moving on, “Knock Knock Knock” is a great mix of menacing acoustic guitar, organs, creepy choir-like backing vocals, break beats, and best of all, mysterious lyrics. For good measure there is screeching guitars that seem out of place, but perfectly right at the same time. This is definitely the most complex track on the album, all the more impressive as it is new territory for Spoon. When listening to music it is human nature to draw comparisons, and “Outlier” is everything all those ’80s, moody, college, synth-heavy bands could have been if they were not so morose. It has layered vocals, heavy keys, and a machine sounding drumbeat., but it is fun and downright danceable. The title track follows with the band doing their best Elvis Costello impersonation, and doing it well. This leads into “I Just Don’t Understand” which is a cover of a song originally made popular by Ann Margaret. “Let Me Be Mine” and “New York Kiss” round out the album with two tracks of Spoon doing what they do best; fun, poppy rock-n-roll with multi-layered sounds buried behind the lead, light-hearted lyrics, and music that would appease the sensibilities of those aged 8 to 60.
Spoon is a no doubt professional band. They know what they do well and to the listener’s delight they do not deviate too much from it. Their style could crack the top 40 today, and could have forty-five years ago as well. They Want My Soul is simply a complete album, full of fun, loose rock without the woe is me tone and forlorn lyrics so many of their contemporaries cannot stay away from. They are not trying to change the world, they are trying to brighten it. It is safe to say that mission has been accomplished with They Want My Soul. CrypticRock give this album 4 out of 5 stars.