Feature by Ziv Biton
Curiosity is a funny thing in the modern age. Anything you are wondering about is probably being wondered about somewhere else, and just by reaching in your pocket you can silence the questions. On one such occasion, I was searching Google for information on Spoon’s newest album, They Want My Soul. Not surprisingly, the first search result was from Rolling Stone, but what was surprising was the headline, which read, “Stream Spoon’s Adventurous New Album Now On iTunes.” Needless to say I devoured the iTunes stream. But after just the first listen I can honestly say there is nothing “adventurous” about this record.
I liked Transference. There are some golden moments on that record like Daniel’s caged-in scream on the chorus of “Written In Reverse.” Or the heartbeat-like pulsating guitar on “Mystery Zone” which was hypnotic and, yes, “adventurous.” Though Transference was not as satisfying as previous releases, it saw the band experimenting with synths and differing time signatures; essentially attempting to break the mold of what a Spoon record would sound like.
Four years later we have They Want My Soul; a record that takes the experimentation of Transference and the consistent aesthetic of Spoon to make something that is, in so few words, a refreshing return to form. Jim Eno’s drums are strong, even pounding at times. Daniels’ voice is perfect and delivered with better placement than some of Transference’s low points.
But, most of this revitalization comes from new Spoon member, keyboardist Alex Fischel; who was a part of Britt Daniel’s offshoot supergroup Divine Fits (as well as local L.A. favorite, Papa). Fischel’s keyboard plays incredibly with the group, creating a new layer to Spoon’s sound. At times Fischel carries an entire song on his nimble fingers. Most obviously this happens on the brutally sentimental “Inside Out” which will probably soon sound-track a movie/TV show that may or may not involve Jason Bateman.
“Inside Out” is the flagship of this new record and it’s refreshing breeze. Hearing Daniels plead, “Break out of character for me” in something that is just above a whisper, is goosebump inducing. Listening to the track through the lens of previous Spoon piano ballads brings the evolution full circle. Essentially Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga’s “The Ghost Of You Lingers” jumping chord progression is seamlessly coupled with Transference’s “Goodnight Laura” lyrical conviction. Neither of those two songs are as strong as the sum of their parts as represented in “Inside Out.”
Of course we can’t talk about a new Spoon record without mentioning Britt Daniel’s indelible voice. Can we just put Daniel at the upper echelon of rock vocalists and call it a day? It isn’t his range; he doesn’t hit notes like Thom Yorke. Instead Daniel’s graduated magna cum laude at the school of rock ‘n’ roll vocalists where Tom Waits is the Dean with a questionable past and Joe Cocker is the drunken janitor. When you hear Daniel’s voice you know it’s him. His voice is the “Spoon Sound.”
A large indicator of his prowess is his ability to take lyrics that would normally sound strange on paper and make them into festival anthems. For instance, on the stomping album opener “Rent I Pay.” Daniel’s sings, “I been losing sleep just nodding sleep that I wish that I know’d” which seems like a strange clusterfuck of verbs, but coming from his throat you get the picture of a toured out rocker that is accepting, yet dismissive of the things one has to accept to keep up with their lifestyle. Then there are the lyrics “Time’s gone inside out,” which read at best a bit confusing and at worst pretty self-aggrandizing. But from Daniel it sounds reflective and deep, an indication of the narrators malaise.
With They Want My Soul, Spoon have not made anything resembling adventure. Instead, they have perfected the things that have always made them timeless, while also probing their own curiosity. Which, I suppose in 2014 guitar oriented music, could register as a bit adventurous; but I prefer to call it courageous.
SPOON 2014 TOUR DATES
07/12-13/14 – Telluride, CO – The Ride Festival
07/18/14 – Louisville, KY – Forecastle Festival
07/25/14 – Seattle, WA – Capitol Hill Block Party
08/01/14 – Chicago, IL- Metro
08/02/14 – Chicago, IL – Lollapalooza
08/05/14 – San Diego, CA – Sleep Train Amphitheatre at Chula Vista*
08/08/14 – Los Angeles, CA – The Fairbanks Lawn of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery
08/10/14 – San Francisco, CA – Outside Lands
08/17/14 – Portland, OR – Musicfest NW
08/30/14 – Montreal, QC – Parc Jean Drapeau *
08/30-31/14 – Philadelphia, PA – Made in America Festival
09/02/14 – Washington, DC – Lincoln Theatre +
09/05/14 – Raleigh, NC – Hopscotch Music Festival
09/06/14 – Norfolk, VA – Norva +
09/07/14 – Boston, MA – Boston Calling Music Festival
09/10/14 – New York, NY – Central Park
09/11/14 – Pittsburgh, PA – Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead +
09/12/14 – Indianapolis, IN – Egyptian Room +
09/13/14 – Hamilton, ON – Supercrawl Festival
09/14/14 – Royal Oak, MI – Royal Oak Theatre +
09/16/14 – Chicago, IL – Chicago Theatre ^
09/17/14 – Milwaukee, WI – Riverside Theatre ^
09/18/14 – Madison, WI – Orpheum Theatre ^
09/19/14 – Minneapolis, MN – State Theatre ^
09/20/14 – St. Louis, MO – Pageant ^
09/21/14 – Lawrence, KS – Liberty Hall ^
09/23/14 – Tulsa, OK – Cain’s Ballroom ^
10/03-05/14 – Austin, TX – Austin City Limits Music Festival
10/10-12/14 – Austin, TX – Austin City Limits Music Festival
11/01/14 – Amsterdam, NL – Paradiso
11/02/14 – Hamburg, DE – Uebel & Gefarlich
11/03/14 – Basel, CH – Kaserne Reithalle
11/04/14 – Cologne, DE – Luxor
11/05/14 – Gent, BE – Vooruit
11/06/14 – Paris, FR – Trabendo
11/07/14 – London, UK – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
* supporting Arcade Fire
+ with Hamilton Leithauser
^ with EMA