Spoon : Hot Thoughts

It’s been over 20 years since their debut album Telephono was released in 1996, and they have done nothing but look forward ever since. I have no problem saying that Spoon have released some of my generations best rock records, and they’ve done it continually on their own terms. Through a major label fumble that would have broke a lesser band, Spoon have built their sound on a steady diet of Wire, The Jam, the Kinks, the Pixies, and Brill Building pop. The result is something completely, well, Spoon.

Girls Can Tell was the album that, for me, officially started what would be their winning streak and Kill The Moonlight was the defining indie rock album of the 2000s. Britt Daniel’s white boy soul vocals and sparse, angular guitar work combined with Jim Eno’s powerful, clean drumming created a magic that producer Mike McCarthy harnessed in the studio.

From there the world was Spoon’s oyster.

Each album that followed redefined and honed their sound. Gimme Fiction, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Transference, and They Want My Soul all had something to offer and built on what came before. One thing each of these records have in common is a gradual lean into groovier territory. “I Turn My Camera On” and “My Mathematical Mind” to “Don’t You Evah” and “Eddie’s Ragga” to “Who Makes Your Money” and “Nobody Gets Me But You”, all of these tracks showed a much more groove-centric Spoon giving their dancier tendencies some play time. With 2014s They Want My Soul there was a push to mix the indie rock heartbreak of earlier records with a much more polished sound. The result was one of their most acclaimed albums yet. Now with the release of Spoon’s ninth album, the excellent Hot Thoughts, there seems to be no reason to believe Spoon can’t conquer the world at large.

“Hot Thoughts” was the first single released and it’s this opening salvo that seems to mix everything we’ve come to love about this Austin band, which includes Britt Daniel and Jim Eno, as well as Rob Pope and Alex Fischel. Dance-y rhythms with a touch of Stones-y flair all covered with an air of urgency. Daniel’s vocals seem to only get better year after year, and this year is no different. “WhisperI’lllistentohearit” is keyboard heavy, but in a 80s drama kind of way. There is guitar on this album, but it’s used sparsely and when engaged to great effect. There are some heavy Divine Fits vibes here, too. With the addition of Alex Fischel, that band’s keyboard player and Daniels’ bandmate, the comparison is not without its merits. This is not a bad thing, either. “Do I Have To Talk You Into It” is the most fun I’ve heard Spoon have on record in a long time, and it doesn’t hurt that the piano melody is pretty similar to Gimme Fiction’s “The Beast And Dragon, Adored”. “First Caress” is another dance-y number that gives you bonus points for indie rock and dance floor cred. “Pink Up” is a beautifully ornamented track that is pushed more by the music than vocals. It’s space-y vibes and jazzy tendencies is a new sound for Spoon and it works well.

The album is produced by Dave Fridmann, who sat in on a few songs with the guys on They Want My Soul. Here, his presence is known but his “in the red” production style doesn’t define the sound of Hot Thoughts. If anything, the guys just use it as a new color to fill in the lines of their already stellar songs. This seems like a great fit for all.

“Can I Sit Next To You” is a full-on come on in song form. Daniel puts his come hither falsetto to good use here, while “I Ain’t The One” feels like a theme for complete heartbreak(it’s use in the season closer for Shameless was damn near perfect). It helps I’m a sucker for that Wurlitzer sound(and I might have a man crush on Britt Daniel.) “Tear It Down” could’ve been a b-side from the Gimme Fiction days. It’s sorta perfect. “Shotgun” sounds like Spoon got onto a “disco Kiss” kick for an afternoon. The result is this tight leather pants-wearing groove fest of a track. The album ends on a space-y jazz instrumental, which is again kind of a genius move.

Is Hot Thoughts Spoon’s best album? Not by a country mile. But guess what? 20 years in and Daniel and Eno are still redefining themselves each time out. They’ve got this tight knit crew after all these years that seem to have found the right amount of slick, weird, heartfelt, and funky that “get it”. Head back in the wayback machine to 1996. Look around the scene and find the music tastemakers at that time, then head back to 2017. Of that musical might, who’s still moving forward? Who’s still pushing and still vital? It’s a small group, and Spoon are at the forefront.

8. 3 out of 10



Hot Thoughts In My Mind

So Spoon is dropping a new album called Hot Thoughts in March. Whenever there’s a new Spoon album I always get a little geared up, know what I mean? There’s just something about this Austin band that exudes cool and slickness. Now normally that would keep me away from a band, cause who needs all that coolness and slickness. Sounds dangerous, like unsalted sidewalks in winter. But Spoon, they’re different. As monstrously cool and debonair as Britt Daniel comes across, at his core he’s just a nerdy dude that loves good music. A hopeless romantic that’s gotten that muscle in his chest broke a few times in his life. Probably picked on by the jocks in high school because he dug that sad-faced melancholy clown Robert Smith and got overly excited when he heard the Kinks’ “David Watts”. Daniel is my kind of people. So he gets a pass for being the James Bond of indie rock.

The lead single, title track “Hot Thoughts” seems to be riding the ever beautiful sheen of 2014s They Want My Soul. It’s a dance-y, rump-shaking number that once it kicks in kind of has this Stones-y “Monkey Man” vibe before getting all hand clap-y and dramatic with some great synth swaths and Daniel’s simple but eloquent guitar work. The album is produced by Spoon with Dave Fridmann, who worked with them on a few tracks on Soul. This time he stuck around for the long haul and his bombastic approach is present, but things aren’t quite in the red. No crackling drums or over pushed faders. It’s a crisp and tight sound. Really, the evolution of Spoon’s sound.

This band is destined to be one of the greats. With the last record, and now Hot Thoughts, I think Spoon are on a collision course with greatness. I think they’re in a position where they can pretty much do whatever they want at this point. Much like Fridmann’s fearless freak pals The Flaming Lips. The Lips have been with Warner Bros Records since 1992. They seem to be able to put out whatever they want, make gummy skulls with flash drives in them, experiment as much as they want on a major label’s dime, and just keep going. If The Lips can make a 24-hour song, I think Spoon can achieve some serious historical music cred. I mean, they already have pretty much. From hear on out everything else is icing on the cake.

Hot Thoughts is out March 17th via Matador Records.

I Turn My Camera On

brittNothing like a fine Bully Porter to make the Friday evening even more perfect than a Friday evening normally is, am I right? This has been an extraordinarily long week at the spine factory, so this fine porter is well deserved.

Not much to report here, other than the house is clean, food is bought, beer is poured, and Spoon is spinning. Yes, the Austin, TX Spoon, not the Can song(thought that would be cool, too.) No, Spoon has been a favorite band of mine since I first heard them on Austin City Limits one December night back in 2004. I immediately purchased Girls Can Tell and Kill The Moonlight on Amazon after the broadcast was done. Five months later they released what I feel is their absolute, hands-down masterpiece Gimme Fiction. Now, a lot of folks would say that Kill The Moonlight was their hands-down masterpiece and I wouldn’t argue with them as it is a true blue classic of our time. But there’s something about hearing a band stretch their musical palette a bit and on Gimme Fiction Britt Daniel and Jim Eno -along with producer Mike McCarthy did just that. To my ears, this is an album that holds up to classic 70s beanbag albums. It’s the kind of record you’d put on in the basement after school back in 1975 and you’d drink your Faygo and smoke that sh*t you’d find in your big brother’s bedroom. Songs like “The Beast And Dragon, Adored”, “I Turn My Camera On”, and “My Mathematical Mind” are the kinds of songs you get completely lost in. They take you to some strange, far off place where Britt Daniel is your older pal. You two cruise the Austin parking lots looking for chicks in Britt’s 1972 Malibu, sharing tunes, tokes, and laughs. All I want to do when I hear a song like “Sister Jack” is drive in a car and sing as loud as I can. It’s a song that should’ve been a radio hit in some bizarrro universe. “I was in a drop-D metal band we called Requiem”. I get that sh*t, man.

I must admit that Spoon have an unfair advantage in regards to my absolute adoration of them. Back in April of 2008 the wife and I got to see them live at the Vic Theater in Chicago. It was -to this day- the best show we’ve ever seen. Spoon evoke this air of coolness and gravitas that no other band I’ve seen in my 40 years have ever shown. Effortless badassery. Daniel is the quintessential frontman, playing his Gibson ES-335 like a man on a mission. Jim Eno is one of the most underrated rock drummers working today. The guy isn’t flashy, he’s just solid and powerful. He’s like Charlie Watts on steroids. Rob Pope and Eric Harvey rounded out the quartet with bass and keys and created this live monster on stage. My wife and I were in awe. White Rabbits and The Walkmen opened the show and were amazing in their own right, but Spoon dominated the night. So, seeing them live and watching them make these songs come to life sealed the deal in regards to them becoming one of my absolute favorite bands.

When I started this blog, I wrote an essay about my top five albums of all time. This album was one of them. You can check out what I had to say about right here. If you’ve never heard this album(or this band for that matter) do yourself a favor and get to know this excellent band from Austin, Texas. But you MUST listen to this album. “I Summon You” is songwriting perfection if you ask me. You didn’t? Well, I’m telling you.

Enjoy your Friday evening.