The dogged consistency of Spoon

Spoon – Hot Thoughts

Listeners who reject “Can I Sit Next to You” have no business listening to Spoon. Coy erotics, clipped “Down on the Corner” riff, handclaps, inapposite synth strings, Britt Daniel’s starchy howl from the depths of a torso imprisoned by a fitted shirt. Spoon could have recorded “Can I Sit Next to You” in 1999 or 2009. What they wouldn’t or couldn’t record in 1999 or 2009 is “”WhisperI’lllistentohearit,” a sequencer-anchored track that’s as close to the platonic ideal of a second track as a band can record.

But so what? To measure Hot Thoughts against They Want My Soul, Gimme Fiction, or Kill the Moonlight is to pretend that “progress” isn’t a quaint buzzword. Critics like progress; bands have a bunch of songs they record in a studio. Every three years Spoon fans frown like doctoral students squinting at microfiche as they study this lick and that drum fill in an attempt to convince themselves that the band has released A Different Album. Nonsense – Spoon doesn’t release different albums. Spoon releases Spoon albums. Play Spot-the-Influence all you want (“Hey, don’t the bass tunings in ‘Shotgun’ remind anyone of ‘At Home He Feels Like a Tourist’?”)

What I like best about Hot Thoughts is the return to the electric piano as an aural foundation. If like me you consider “Small Stakes” and “They Never Got You” essential, then “I Ain’t the One” should satisfy you: a spare variation on a familiar Britt Daniel trope: don’t touch me. The wounded curl of Daniel’s vowels and the use of a Linn drum suggest Daryl Hall’s early eighties salad period; like Hall, Daniel is a rich bitch girl with hot thoughts who not only recoils from foxier competition but wants sex on his terms or he’s outta there. He’s one to talk, though. About eight years ago I spotted Daniel at the Pitchfork Musical Festival and it was a shock: cargo shorts and high top Chuck Taylors; worse, he was in the Chipotle line.

I prefer Gimme Fiction over other Spoon albums because the spartan arrangements of the second half put Daniel’s yawp and ugly strummed noise through some jittery paces; I’d rather listen to Daniel get gnomic over Jim Eno’s skeletal grooves than Thom Yorke doing likewise over Radiohead’s expert reproductions of EKG beeps. That said, Hot Thoughts‘ last song, an instrumental called “Us,” doesn’t work: artists who time their dessicated horndoggedness to their musical minimalism should ignore saxophonists. But with “I Ain’t the One,” “”WhisperI’lllistentohearit,” and the title track leading the way Hot Thoughts is another Spoon album – another album.  Next.

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