In the four year gap between these Austin rockers’ last album Transference, a lot has seemed to have happened, but really, not much has seemed to change. Lead singer Britt Daniel formed supergroup Divine Fits in his time off, recording the new bands first album and taking them on tour along the way. Bassist Rob Pope toured with his other band The Get Up Kids, while multi-talent Eric Harvey recorded his first solo album. Finally, drummer/producer Jim Eno continued to build his producer resume, adding a handful of hot indie bands such as Wild Cub, Phosphorescent, Polica, !!!, and Tennis to his long list of production credits. They also left the infamous independent record label Merge to jump over to a Warner Bros. subsidiary Loma Vista (St. Vincent, Rhye, Cut Copy). They even added two new members to the team. Alex Fischel, who has officailly joined the band as another keyboardist/guitarist (he was in Divine Fits with Daniel), and they recruited legendary indie producer David Friedmann (Flaming Lips, Weezer, MGMT, Tame Impala) instead of producing the album themselves as they normally do. With every member of the band off doing non-Spoon related projects, as well as changing so much of the structure of how they have previously made recorded music for so many albums in a row, you would think there would be some sort of dramatic shift in sound, song, or quality. But luckily, no. Same great old Spoon!
These days, it seems to be much harder for solid rock bands like Spoon, Dr. Dog, The Strokes and The Orwells to really garner total mass popularity. Yes, they are popular in a sense, but it is more bands like Black Keys and Kings of Leon that change their structure and sound just enough to cater more towards the mass audiences that hit the level of super-stardom now. Spoon instead sticks to good, but steady, rock.
Spoon is a band that has always kind of been a bit of an underdog. And although “Underdog” is indeed the title of one of our favorite Spoon tracks here at LxL (as you will see tomorrow in out Top Ten Thursday post), I say that with no pun intended. Oddly enough, we compared them to Tom Petty in our weekly meeting the other night. Solid rock music, with a plethora of fantastic songs, but none that stick out too far above the rest. Which is somewhat contradictory to how in terms of albums, because we all seem to agree that Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is our cumulative favorite, but overall we couldn’t say that it is head and shoulders above the rest of their work.
You can say that I am on a new album high if you want, but They Want My Soul is currently my second favorite album the band has ever put out. Although the album does come with a few boring bumps along the way. Really it is only two songs stand out as missable tracks to me. “Rainy Taxi” and “Just Don’t Understand” both just feel like album fillers in a mix of otherwise great songs. They seem very derivative in an album full of originals, being very straight forward song structures, containing bland in lyrics, and both come off as somewhat of a poor man’s Oasis track. Wes compared “Just Don’t Understand” to the Beatles For Sale era John Lennon. Which isn’t that sort of always what Oasis was shooting for?
Well enough with the bad, onto that good shit! The rest of the album, from the hard-hitting drum intro to “Rent I Pay” down to the last synth note of Spoon’s most electronically amped track that I know of “New York Kiss”, is full of twists and turns in energy and spirit. Aside from the two bumps I had mentioned, you really shouldn’t be let down. “Outlier” manages to shine through as an almost dance-floor type track with its bright keyboard tones and aggressive drum beat. In “They Want My Soul” we hear some of the most fun guitar interplay Spoon has ever unleashed, along with some great screaming from Britt. If I am being honest, the energy of “They Want My Soul”(the track) is really what kind of drives the droning of “I Just Don’t Understand” down for me. Maybe an album restructure could help that track out, but as it lies, “They Want My Soul” is just a real kick in the pants for “I Just Don’t Understand”. “Let Me Be Mine” then follows it up with a bouncy little ditty that really feels like some real Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga style Spoon. It is not a hard one to love. “Do You” is my personal favorite, reminiscent of Beatles-esque classic rock track fused with some Flaming Lips-like sounds.
The main difference that I hear in They Want My Soul compared to the rest of their work is the Fridmann sound that has been subtly stamped all over it. In the past, most of their songs have always had a very “recorded live” feel to them. This one most certainly feels produced, but still holds that cozy, heartfelt Spoon vibe that makes you feel like they are right there singing directly to you. Sprinkled all over you will hear Fridmann instances like the vocal effects in “Do You” and “Rainy Taxi” or in the keyboard/harp sounds in “Inside Out”, “New York Kiss”, and one of my favorites on the album, “Outlier”. Just in general, they have a much more dynamic sound on this album. Drums hit harder and guitars tones stand out more. Britt works his vocals in ways he has not done in the past. But again, we see/hear a lot of subtle changes happening with the band and their sound, but overall, they still just feels like the same old great band they have always been. Classic Spoon.
Revolutionary new sound? No. Groundbreaking music? Not quite. Great, solid effort by an always pleasing and ever constantly great band. Absolutely!
Can’t Miss: “Rent I Pay”, “Inside Out”, “Do You”, “Outlier” “They Want My Soul”
Can’t Hit: “Rainy Taxi”, “I Just Don’t Understand”