The term “consistent” has been attributed towards the excellent indie rockers, Spoon for a decade and a half now. Since 2001’s Girls Can Tell, Spoon has developed a unique and steady approach towards the making of all nine of their albums. They are known for many of their all-around styles and sounds – Britt Daniels’ howling and veiny vocals, whamming guitar riffs, Jon Bonham drum beats, and killer synths. Sometimes they are a hard hitting rock and roll band, while other times, they’re a Beatles-esque semi-electronic pop band.
Generally, bands start out with a few solid records and eventually experiment and move towards a new direction. We have seen this with some of the most significant rock bands of today, like The Strokes and Arcade Fire. Some will say Spoon has been successfully consistent in their discography because they’ve been “making the same song over and over again.” Well, this is not true. Spoon does not have a specific sound – every album comes with a different style and energy. The heaviness displayed on Series of Sneaks (1998) sounds nothing like the versatile minimalist simplicity on Kill the Moonlight (2002) and the classic aesthetic rock album, Gimme Fiction (2005). But these are nothing like challenging Transference (2010). Some will say, Hot Thoughts isn’t an album for “traditional” Spoon fans and is too “futuristic” or “experimental”, but who are traditional Spoon fans? The new album is coined as innovative, but Spoon has always been flirtatious with experimentation. However, on Hot Thoughts, it seems that Spoon has grown electronically and focused more on the sound of the record, rather than the writing.
Last January, Spoon alluded on their social media accounts a new album, by posting an image of a mysterious gloomy skull. Then after a new track of theirs appeared in an emotional scene of Shameless and then playing four new songs live, the band finally announced a new studio album. Hot Thoughts was released on March 17, 2017 on Matador Records, who originally released their debut album, Telephono, in 1996. David Fridmann (Flaming Lips), producer of the band’s last studio album, They Want My Soul (2014) and known for his sonic production, was signed on again to produce the new album. On Hot Thoughts, Spoon shows their progression in extending the exotic dance floor grooves, and their title as one of the greatest American rock bands in the past 20 years.
Hot Thoughts opens with the sexy and dance-rock styled titled track – blending Strokes-like riffs over simple beats flourishing under Britt Daniels’ modernized echoed vocals. He even throws in a “Wooooo” and some intense classic Daniel-howls, something greatly admired about Spoon songs. It’s an opening, that showcases the band really connecting and coming together—showing listeners, they still got it.
“Hot Thoughts” greatly transitions to next track, “Whisperi’lllistentohearit” that has a suspenseful introduction, and a compelling bridge, featuring some heavy drum beats. Carried with a powerful Bonham-esque drum beat from drummer, Jim Eno, along with some spacy synth lines, “Do I Have to Talk You Into It,” is a classic Spoon song. It’s as if “The Beast and Dragon, Adored” and Radiohead’s “Planet Telex” blended together. Daniels substitutes his howls with a pushy “oh oh whoah!” like Sal from Futurama.
The following track, “First Caress” is like if “Rainy Taxi” met the rhythm and tempo of “The Infinite Pet”. All three songs include a disco-punk style attached with a very distinct and catchy Devo-like beat. It also includes the most memorable, but ridiculous lyrics on the album: “Coconut milk, coconut water, you still like to tell me they’re the same–aw ha, and who am I to say?” Eno loved the lyrics so much, he pestered Daniels into not removing them, which was a mistake (record the god damn talkback Jim). The more surprising experimental standouts, the tambourine synthy “Pink Up” and the closing saxophone advanced concerto, “Us” embraces the David Fridman touch. Both tracks tone down the funkiness and hard riffs the album offers. Both tracks are similar to the new Flaming Lips’ record Oczy Mlody (2017), which was also produced by Fridmann.
“Can I Sit Next to You” is mysterious and draws a similarity to Spoon’s previous album, They Want My Soul (2014). Pitchfork stated in their review that it “bears a striking resemblance” to “Do You.” On the contrary, this song sounds like the Spoon from the previous decade. There’s a strange synth line that pays tribute to the style portrayed on their 2005 album, Gimme Fiction.It opens with the typical Spoon guitar riff and throughout the song, you hear Britt Daniels’ endearing howls and echoes.
One thing that is disappointing is Britt’s vocal approach on “I Ain’t the One” on the studio version. His chant of the lyrics, “I Ain’t the One” is phenomenal and effecting, however, Daniels cuts down on parts, making it unbalanced. Another, is the lyrical approach. You can tell this one of the tracks, where they they focused more on the sound of the song than the writing of it – very repetitive. Daniels actually had this song set to be an acoustic track, but changed it to fit the futuristic feel, the album offers. I recommend listening to the live version they performed on The Late Late Show with James Corden. The performance was breathtaking and haunting; quite a showstopper. Maybe Daniels was tired of crooning and showing his neck veins in the studio.
The politically driven “Tear It Down” is mid-tempo, enriching quite a protest chant during the bridge. On the definitive 2007, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Spoon released an intentional anti-Bush track, “Don’t Make Me a Target,” while here, they released an unintentional anti-Trump track. Although Britt Daniels’ stated in an interview with Esquire, “My real concern was that, by the time the record came out, Trump would be a forgotten shit stain of the past.” But with lyrics like, “Let them build a wall around us, I don’t care, I’m gonna tear it down / It’s just bricks and ill-intentions, they don’t stand a chance, I’ll tear it down,” it paints the picture. Since the rise of President Trump, it’s definitely one of the best anti-Trump tracks, even if it wasn’t meant to be. “Shotgun” is a heavy track, next to “Do I have to Talk You Into It” and its opening sounds like when KISS went disco, with “I Was Made for Lovin’ You.” It includes a dreamy mysterious synth line, similar to “Can I Sit Next to You”. The closing track, “Us” is a soothing jazz coda, which echoes something that could have been recorded during the Police’s Synchronicty (1983) sessions. It’s a great way to end all of those sexually and aggravated hot thoughts.
Although Hot Thoughts carries Spoon’s style and artfulness and keeps their consistency alive, it definitely goes above and beyond experimentation. It took the style of the second track from They Want My Soul, “Inside Out,” a song with no guitars and basically continued it. There are no loving pop tracks like “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” or “Do You”; it’s an album of exploring the future. Spoon is evolving even more than they have in the past, but they have not yet lost their mojo. The consistency continues.
Classic Tracks: “Whisperi’lllistentohearit,” First Caress,” “Do I Have to Talk You Into It,” “Shotgun” and “Hot Thoughts”
Ehh – “I Ain’t the One”
You can listen to Spoon’s Hot Thoughts here.