Before the first solid kick of the first song even reached my ears, I was astounded to find out that this is the Texan indie rockers’ eighth studio album, contributing to pinch of nervousness in terms of me ‘getting it’. I’m a Spoon virgin. A Spirgin.
Weight of expectation.
Let’s push on.
The album opens with the first single, ‘Rent I Pay’, a bluesy stomp that would play well to stadia head-nodders, and coincidentally the best song on the album. The drum and guitar production put me in mind of some early Superchunk, and it was only after some further research did I discover that Spoon had actually released earlier work on Superchunk‘s Merge Records.
This was promising.
And then ‘Inside Out’ took me on a restrained/plodding synth-dream and my preconceptions were thrown into disarray, and not as positively as I’d hoped. If the opener was Charles Atlas, this was the weakling getting sand kicked in his face.
The synthy electro spongebath returns later on in ‘Outlier’, a track that wears Madchester on its sleeve and has one ear to Adamski & Seal‘s ‘Killer’ – yes, I’m serious, we really are 90’s here – including a fade-out at the end. What unites these weaker songs is a lot of production, too much in my view. I wanted the energy of the opener and ‘Rainy Taxi’, something I had to wait until ‘Let Me Be Mine’ for this to return, with its glam-rock percussion and bounce of good cheer.
The third track ‘Rainy Taxi’ sounded like it could be used to score a pursuit scene in a more serious and overcast Blues Brothers movie. I was satisfied when the lyrics included the line “Run away for good”. I win. Yesss. Or perhaps I’m just trying to make the pieces fit for my own game of “What Would The Film of This Song Be Like”. These things happen.
The major seventh vocal melody in the title song briefly interested me but I was left wanting in terms of what else was there. In the same way ‘Knock Knock Knock’ built an intriguing atmosphere with harsh fuzzy guitar stabs and reverberating backing whistles. I assumed it was going to be hoisted to something bigger and more satisfying towards the end but no. The conclusion came and went.
The final song ‘New York Kiss’ is a well-constructed piece of staccato jerk-pop that I could potentially robot-dance to, if I had the requisite talent in that area. It serves as a good representation of the indie rock/electro sumo match that had taken place across the album, and also showcased Britt Daniel‘s almost Nordic enunciation of certain words (for the first three listens I thought he said “New York Kids”).
They Want My Soul shows Spoon conjuring some solid and crafted songs from a simple starting broth. When they allow their instruments room to breathe in terms of production, that’s when they shine. On other occasions we end up with a less than satisfying soup.
Words: Simon Linskill