Spoon's "They Want My Soul" (Loma Vista) is solid proof of the benefits of side projects.
For the first Spoon album in four years, singer-guitarist Britt Daniel and the guys sound both more at ease and more ambitious than they have in quite some time. They also are more groove-oriented, perhaps more of the influence of Daniel's side project Divine Fits, but the guitar-driven tension and lyrical intensity from previous albums remain intact.
The "They Want My Soul" title track shows how this works. With a Beatles-inspired catchy melody, Daniel outlines a sprawling list of people who want his soul -- card sharks, street preachers, post-sermon socialites, educated folk singers, religious author Jonathan Fisk -- over tightly coiled, Wire-like rhythms from bassist Rob Pope and drummer Jim Eno.
Sometimes, Daniel is content to ride the groove -- like the driving, Eurythmics-like synthy-rain of "New York Kiss" or the Divine Fits-y "Outlier," which conjures up '90s shoe-gazing and the grand dig of "I remember when you walked out of 'Garden State,' 'cause you had taste." And sometimes, he amplifies it -- with his scratchy "do-do-do-do"s adding another level of rhythm to the backdrop that updates "Siamese Dream"-era Smashing Pumpkins.
That's what Spoon has always done well: taking wildly eclectic rock references and spinning them into something that sounds thoroughly modern. However, "They Want My Soul," with help from producers Dave Fridmann and Joe Chiccarelli, takes that well-crafted mastery to the next level, especially when they modernize the Rolling Stones vibe on "Rent I Pay" or the Spencer Davis Group in "Rainy Taxi."
"They Want My Soul"
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THE GRADE A
BOTTOM LINE Dark thoughts wrapped in sleek, shiny sounds