ALBUM: They Want My Soul
It’s a daunting to think that Spoon has been a band for just over twenty years now. Where did that time go, and in the process how many indie rock acts had faded into nomadic obscurity, hopping aboard the last midnight train to play second fiddle with the rest of the hobos and sycophants? On their eight full-length, They Want My Soul, time is more than a fleeting concept. It lingers on the edge of every line; keeping a steady rhythm and making even the briefest of incidents carry a pulse. “Time’s gone inside out/ time gets distorted/ with this intense gravity”, frontman, Britt Daniel, sings on “Inside Out", the record’s second and, in many ways, most far-out track. Here’s where the unsteady ground shakes more than usual, leaving all those with two legs unsettled—and after eight go-arounds—by no means, unaccustomed to the ride.
Spoon’s past two efforts, 2010’s Transference and 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, rank among the band’s finest work, in terms of songwriting and overall pop flow. They Want My Soul shares many similarities with these albums, but carries with it just enough shake and rattle to warrant a necessary head turn from even the casual listener. In their first endeavor with second keyboardist, Alex Fishel, the band has certainly adjusted remnants of their morphed sound to equate for his contributions. Synth-heavy and highly beat-driven at times, the ten songs are a near even split between standard five-piece rock band hooks and far fresher territory. Spoon sounds like they always do, which is by no means a bad thing, and yet within the gracious fades and lunar noise comes something of conundrum: Where to from here?
As with any band, the years in-between records can be quite vital to the chaos that follows. In Spoon’s case, the members have been quite scattered since Transference. Daniel’s side project with Wolf Parade’s Dan Boenker, Divine Fits, was worthy of repeat listens, although one couldn’t help but wonder if certain tracks would have sounded better as Spoon songs. Bassist, Rob Pope, reunited with his Get-Up Kids brethren to rehash and capture some shade of emotional youth gone by. Drummer Jim Eno maintained a prolific production track record for numerous other bands, and yet They Want My Soul is the first Spoon record he hasn’t had a direct hand in producing. That task fell first to Joe Chiccarelli and ended on The Flaming Lips’ old standby, Dave Fridmann.
While Fridmann’s unique ear can be a slippery slope (see the sophomoric efforts of first-time wunderkinds, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Tapes and Tapes), his collaboration with indie veterans like Spoon mostly works in the group’s favor. Eclectically diverse and electronically dense, each of the ten tracks breathes quite well on its own, but remains one jagged piece of a sentimental whole. At just under thirty-eight minutes, They Want My Soul offers plenty of surprises both sonically and deep within the lyrical foreground. Daniel is far from saying everything that’s on his mind, and yet it’s in that in-between space where the pieces from both mechanical and organic sources learn to live peacefully together.
This is more than just a rock album or some piece nearly danceable if the all the squares got nice and buzzed. It falls for the old step forward/back adage: the step forward in many respects is greater, and the two steps back are minor enough to please even the most astute Spoon listener. That’s not to say that They Want My Soul isn’t ridden with dashes of filler and the occasional rolled eye following an intentional repetition of chords or, more importantly, lyrics. Daniel drills his point home, whether it’s in the hefty consistency of “The Rent I Pay” or the pragmatic longing of “Do You”. The vast majority of titles are pulled directly from song lyrics, almost as if Spoon is trying just a little too hard to make their music accessible to the average radio derelict, caught between the red light and his dashboard.
What makes They Want My Soul still somehow above these standard practices is the quality of its songs. There’s a little something for everybody, from the lifelong fans still salivating over garage riffs in the underrated A Series of Sneaks, down past the hipster snobs turning up the treble on Girls Can Tell and Kill the Moonlight. Yes, even those who have no idea that Spoon is more than just a utensil could find their bearings in the lapsed grooves of the band’s latest.
In the watered-down music world, hard-working bands are often brushed aside in favor of what’s news, and let’s face it, unfortunately temporary. Spoon have proved many times over their rare staying power, never hanging on for dear life, but rather standing at enough of a distance for those in the back to occasionally look up from their cellphone screens and ponder the noises shooting in one ear and out the other. With any luck, these latest cuts will get lost somewhere in-between.
“Time’s gone inside out. Time gets distorted with this intense gravity”.