The opening thrust of the AV Club review of ATR favorite Spoon’s new album, “They Want My Soul,” is that unlike so many other Spoon albums, it takes a while to get going. I consider myself a Spoon scholar. Some of my favorite Spoon tracks are B-sides I’m certain you’ve never heard, etc. I’m an unabashed snob when it comes to Spoon. So as a Spoon scholar, let me just say I completely disagree with the fellow at the AV Club on this one: These first four tracks are just as well paced, impactful and fantastic as any first-four sequence in the Spoon catalogue.
I mean, what exactly about the driving, stomping rhythm and full throat crooning of album opener “The Rent I Pay” falls short of the Spoon standard for strong starts? I’d argue it’s more get-up-and-go than “Don’t Make Me A Target,” the strong but more subtle and slow-built opener to Spoon’s magnum opus, “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.”
And for the first-time listener, track two, “Inside Out,” may be a little underwhelming. I know it slipped under my radar the first time I heard it. But holy mother of God is this track great once it sinks in (and it only took about three listens for it to “hit” me). I heard Britt Daniel describe the bassline of this song as a sort of Dr. Dre lite, which is accurate, but it falls right in line with the grand tradition of minimalist Spoon tracks such as “I Turn My Camera On” and “Was It You?” only it’s more pretty than either of those tracks. I keep singing softly to myself “I don’t make time for holy rollers” like it’s a personal mantra. This song is a killer track two.
“Rainy Taxi” comes in at track three with another classic driving Spoon rhythm, a little more sinister but calling to mind great tracks like “The Infinite Pet” from “Gimme Fiction” and “Chicago At Night” from “Kill the Moonlight. "Taxi” is more upbeat and energetic than either of those later-album tracks, though.
And what about track four, “Do You,” the song that, to my mind, defines what radio rock SHOULD sound like; the latest in Spoon’s long line of excellently chosen first singles? I put “Do You” up there among Spoon’s greatest songs and it’s here, hitting cleanup for “They Want My Soul,” 20 years into the band’s existence.
In fact, the still-excellent “Knock Knock Knock” almost feels like a come down after that sequence at track five. But it’s still excellent. And the rest of the album clicks into place like an intricate wooden puzzle that happens to play great rock music when it’s put together. The nouveau doo-wop groove of the titular track slides perfectly into the Ann-Margret cover “I Just Don’t Understand.” The bouncy “Let Me Be Mine” builds nicely off that, handing off to the somewhat Divine Fits-esque closer “New York Kiss” (track six, “Outliers,” also reminds me of Daniel’s work with Divine Fits, and I should know, I am still airing out my copy of that album on a regular basis). And in fewer than 40 minutes, we’re done.
At this point my blog is little more than a fanzine for Spoon anyway, so it hardly needs saying that I Recommend this album with the highest enthusiasm. If this style of music doesn’t hit you in the right place, so be it, and I recognize that as a possibility, even from my perch high atop Mount Spoon Scholar. But if you dig rock and roll, if you like Pavement or the Pixies or maybe you went and saw Foster the People a couple times in the last few years, seriously, Spoon should at least rock your socks if not rule your world like they do mine.
While we’re here, let me also refute another point of the AV Club review and several others I’ve read: a sort of revisionist history trashing of the band’s 2010 album, “Transference.” In interviews after that album came out, the band talked about how they didn’t have as much fun recording it, that it felt too much like “work” and they took a break for a while after it was done. At the time, the album was given high marks all the way around, but now, many reviewers are referring to it as a let-down in the Spoon discography. I’ve been listening to “Transference” more or less nonstop in the last month or so leading up to the release of “They Want My Soul.” There’s nothing, to my ear, on “Transference” that could be used as evidence of the band in some kind of doldrums or not in the mode of making great music. It’s a great Spoon album in a long line of great Spoon albums. If you like this band, you will like that album and you will like this album, simple as that.