Album Review: Spoon, 'They Want My Soul'

On 2002's "Kill the Moonlight," the second of five great albums Spoon released between 2001 and 2010, frontman Britt Daniel sings about a guy named Jonathon Fisk who used to beat him up in middle school. He sounds like a real creep, but as Daniel revealed in a recent interview, the two are now friends, and Fisk has become a Spoon superfan. That's pretty much how it goes with these Austin indie rockers: If you don't love them at first, just wait. You will.

And it's no wonder: As Gloria Estefan once sang, "The rhythm is gonna get you." Spoon's clipped rock'n'soul grooves have set it apart from just about every other indie outfit on the planet. On "They Want My Soul," Spoon's eighth album (and first in four years), the band falls right back into step. Each of these 10 songs has a taut, terrifically Spoon-like skeleton, and even if the group had opted to once again self-produce and stick to its usual bag of tricks, it would have easily extended its winning streak to six.

Instead, Spoon handed the controls to Dave Fridmann, the man behind all the best Flaming Lips discs, and the result is a record that manages to splash bright, unexpected colors in between very clearly drawn lines. Fridmann achieves this by tweaking the many sonic elements that comprise Spoon's deceptively minimal sound. On the dark and anxious "Rainy Taxi," he dials in some extra distortion, one of his pet effects. On "Knock Knock Knock," he keeps the guitars mostly unplugged until the end, when new member Alex Fischel unleashes some vicious noise. "Outlier," meanwhile, earns its name with a dancy beat and laser-beam synth tones. It's the closest Spoon will likely come to going psychedelic or EDM. And while the boys still sound pretty buttoned up, there's a looseness that suits the song's lyrics - all about some freethinking friend or lover who "walked out of [the film] Garden State 'cause you had taste."

The real beauty of Spoon's patented eighth-note pulsing is that it can evoke both nervousness and excitement, and on the album's best cuts, the summery "Inside Out" and "Do You," these lockstep Texans are softer but also funkier than ever before. The former centers on the religious blowhards Daniel sees as threats to his independence. "I won't be their soldier," he insists, stringing his words out like backyard party lights across the spiky piano notes.

That message - not getting hoodwinked, not selling out-carries over to the title track, a scratchy, punkish jam more on par with vintage Spoon. Among the soul-sucking foes Daniel mentions by name is his former nemesis Fisk. Daniel is clearly having a laugh - that sweet and lively hook is a dead giveaway. But even if Fisk were to misunderstand and get offended, his anger once again likely wouldn't last long. When the groove's this good, how could it?

-Kenneth Partridge


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