Spoon – Hot Thoughts
For their return to original label Matador – who put out their debut Telephono way back in 1996 – Spoon are burning the same kind of potent songwriting fuel that set alight the first half of 2005’s Gimme Fiction, but coloured by the broader instrumental palette of 2014’s patchy They Want My Soul. Ninth album Hot Thoughts is being heralded by Matador as the first Spoon full-length without acoustic guitars, and with producer Dave Fridmann at the helm, there’s no surprise that it crackles with energy. Founding members Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno, plus long-term bassist Rob Pope, are firing on all cylinders, multi-instrumentalist Eric Harvey has left quietly via the back door, and Alex Fischel’s idiosyncratic keyboard parts are given free rein. Spoon circa 2017 is an electrified, flashy creature that looks right at home on stage.
Perhaps attributable to the recent upsurge in vinyl, Hot Thoughts is distinguished from the rest of Spoon’s mostly excellent discography by the way it’s clearly sequenced as two five-song ‘sides’, each side opening with a single and ending with an expansive track. Although the title track and ‘Can I Sit Next To You’ are strong songs in themselves, they’re each trumped by the song that follows. ‘WhisperI’lllistentohearit’ and ‘I Ain’t the One’ are both top-drawer Spoon – and easily the best songs here. The former shifts gear midway through, from a delicious spacey opening into a breathless stomp; the latter is simply a great, no-frills heartbreaker built around some killer electric piano and Daniel’s magnificently yearning vocal.
Elsewhere, ‘Do I Have To Talk You Into It’ recycles the chromatic riff from ‘The Beast and Dragon, Adored’ and tethers it to a slamming beat. ‘Tear It Down’ has a gorgeous coda, akin to Modest Mouse’s ‘Float On’. And final track ‘Us’ recycles the vibraphone from side A closer ‘Pink Up’ and stirs in some buttery sax. (I’m pretty sure ‘Us’ is the first Spoon instrumental since ‘This Book Is A Movie’ from Girls Can Tell.)
On a pleasingly consistent album, ‘First Caress’ is the only weak link, with an uninspiring chorus, an irritating piano part and cringe-inducing lyrics: “Coconut milk, coconut water, uh-huh / You still like to tell me they’re the same / Who am I to say?” Thankfully it’s the shortest track here at under three minutes, and is the only time I urge to skip ahead.
While Spoon’s discography has plenty of albums that handsomely reward repeat listens, They Want My Soul left me wondering whether Britt Daniel’s muse was on the wane. Thankfully, with Hot Thoughts, Daniel is back on track, mining a rich seam of riff-driven songcraft that does all the things Spoon do well, while also hinting at promising future directions to come.
~ Hot Thoughts is released 17th March 2017 via Matador. ~