On paper, the indie-rock group Spoon sounds rather ordinary. Formed twenty years ago, the group consists of five guys playing catchy, rhythmic rock and roll. There’s none of the sweeping theatrics of Arcade Fire, the “preppy” Paul Simon pop of Vampire Weekend, or the color-coded vinyl experiments of Jack White. Spoon doesn’t have a high-concept behind them, like so many of their fellow rock competitors.
If that makes the band sound boring, stale, or pedestrian, you’re getting the wrong picture. Led by singer-guitarist Britt Daniel, Spoon makes tight, punchy, infectious rock influenced by by decades of musical history, crafting headphone-ready instrumentation around simple, melodious pop hooks. Their latest, They Want My Soul, sees the band breathe fresh life and, in doing so, produce one of the best LPs of their career.
Soul opens with “Rent I Pay”, an attempt to channel the energy of Joan Jett’s 80’s hit I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll”. Reverb-heavy drums pound, Rolling Stones guitars swell, and Daniel sings of losing sleep and asking for peace. The track is unabashedly indebted to classic, catchy 60’s rock and Jett’s punk-pop, but some sophisticated production, thumping drums, and an ear-wormy chorus make the song fresh, while familiar.
That’s followed up with more bouncy, danceable pop-rock. There’s the dreary, up-tempo tracks “Outlier” and “Rainy Taxi”, which is clearly reminiscent of The Black Keys . Then comes “Do You”, an instantly hummable piece of drum-based pop that may be the album’s highlight.
The band slows down on “Inside Out”, a sorrowful ballad backed by sparse synths and music-box piano, and “Knock Knock Knock”, with it’s spacey drums, screeching guitar, and frantic orchestra.
With his gruff falsetto, Britt Daniel’s voice reaches new heights. World-weary and tired, he sounds increasingly exhausted from two decades of Spoon. On tracks like “Rent I Pay” and “Do You”, he oohs and ahhs through pop choruses with youthful aplomb.
They Want My Soul isn’t without flaws, though. Things slow down as the album nears it’s end, with some forgettable tracks. Meanwhile, Daniel seems to have little to say with his songwriting, one of the album’s weaker aspects. None of that should stop you from enjoying some of the year’s best rock songs, which add up to a consistently entertaining listen, and a few of which near the heights Spoon reached on their crowning achievement, Kill The Moonlight. In a year of big releases from rock’s best, They Want My Soul shouldn’t be forgotten.