They Want My Soul
5 August 2014 (Republic Records)
By Josh Hughes
We’re lucky sons of bitches. If Spoon stopped making music anywhere in their post Telephono career, I can’t help but feel they’d be even more warmly received than they are now. Sure, Kill The Moonlight is a modern classic, but imagine just how much more of a classic it would be if Britt Daniel and co. tragically fell apart in the aftermath of its release. A Nirvana, a Joy Division, an LCD Soundsystem, a Neutral Milk Hotel, whatever you want to call it, there’s a strange fascination with bands with a couple of amazing albums that somehow or other crash and burn in their heyday. Yet, with Spoon, we’re lucky enough to have not one or two of these albums, or even three; we have seven. And somehow, through all of that, I can’t help but feel there’s an underappreciation to every album of theirs. Bring in a fifth member, two outside producers, and a major label (their first since 1998’s brilliant A Series Of Sneaks), and Spoon is back with another great album. But did we really expect anything less at this point?
They Want My Soul opens with a bang from the meat and potatoes rock of “Rent I Pay”. It’s delicately and thoughtfully placed together, just like every Spoon song, but this just reeks of comeback single (which, it just happened to be). Not like they needed a comeback- I think Transference is one of the most criminally underappreciated albums of all time, but “Rent I Pay” makes a clear departure from the lo-fi, dark approach of that album and welcomes us to a more believable follow-up/companion to their pop gem Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. This idea is continued throughout the album with “Do You”, “Outlier”, and “Knock Knock Knock”. But, hm, there’s also the Girls Can Tell piano swagger of “Let Me be Mine”, not to mention the Kill The Moonlight deconstruction of the title track, oh, and the Gimme Fiction playfulness of “Rainy Taxi”. It’s kind of a mix of everything. The point is that Spoon sounds like no one else, and their whole career is a carefully crafted series of revisions to perfect their small niche of music. But, with They Want My Soul, there’s more of a cohesive vision of their purpose as a rock band that’s stayed true to themselves all the way through 2014, twenty years after their conception. And that vision is the title of the album itself.
Daniel’s lyrics usually hit me as individual pieces, with one or two lines really striking me. But on the title track, there’s a wonderful singular vision that feels 20 years in the making. He sings about everyone from Jonathan Fisk to card sharks wanting his soul, and, as simple as it all is, it resonates more than most Spoon lyrics. It’s satisfying hearing a somewhat eloquently stated, fresh way of telling people to, in the most basic terms, fuck off. It’s nowhere near angsty punk, it’s just about everyday phonies (sorry Salinger) and a band who’ve stayed uncorrupted from big brand companies and all the people he lists off. It wouldn’t have as much power if it were off almost any of their earlier albums; it only now makes perfect sense. It’s even better with the jangly guitar solos after the chorus, where one track is panned over either speaker so it sounds like dueling guitars. It’s just one in infinite amounts of their subtle perfectionism in recording.
Between all the talk about soul sucking and inherent coolness of the record, there’s plenty of musical wonderlands to get lost in. “Do You” and “Inside Out” are the key examples this time around, the former of which is a total summer jam complete with a “do-do” and “ah” chorus, and the latter being Spoon’s farthest departure from their sound, picking up right where “Nobody Gets Me But You” left off. It’s built around a deep bass groove, Jim Eno’s ever steady drums, and flickers of what sound like harp. Somehow along the way, it’s also the prettiest song on the record. The lyrics cut in and out, with splendid lines like “There’s intense gravity in you / I’m just your satellite” and “Break out of character for me”, while the spaces are filled with ethereal and hypnotic keyboard jams. Let me just say if you’re ever in need of a song to fill the void of the ‘2AM driving through a rainy city with blurry streetlights’ part of your life, you won’t find a better candidate than “Inside Out”.
Elsewhere, “New York Kiss” is addicting as hell to listen to, “Outlier” feels the natural conclusion to “Finer Feelings”, and “I Just Don’t Understand” checks off their cover an Ann Margret song covered by The Beatles box. It’s likely the weakest spot on the record, but only because it doesn’t feel as necessary as their previous covers. There’s still a nice gusto to the track, complemented with Britt Daniel’s raspy vocals, but it probably could’ve been a b-side.
At this point, I really feel like I’m obligated to not give a rating to every subsequent Spoon release. I mean, from the day they announced its release, I knew it would be nothing less than a Spoon album. They Want My Soul is simply another album solidifying their status as one of the best bands in the world right now. It probably won’t gain too many new followers, but it will fall in line with the other seven great albums of theirs. Maybe if it’s the last one, they’ll finally get the full credit they deserve, but, we wouldn’t want the end of Spoon. So here’s to the next seven albums.
Rating: Loved It
Fav Tracks: “Inside Out”, “Do You”, “They Want My Soul”, “New York Kiss”