As one of the few American indie rock bands from the past decade whose legacy remains untarnished, there’s an argument for Spoon being the most consistent rock act of their generation. Other indie rock bands that peaked in the early and mid-00s decided to drastically alter their sound so they could keep up with the times in a largely disastrous attempt to remain relevant (yes, I’m looking at you, James Mercer). The passing of time hasn’t been particularly kind to those bands, and it’s not like their recent material is going to win them many new fans anyway. Spoon, though, are an exception to the rule - unlike their contemporaries, they merely added minor subtleties to the dry, unpolished sound they mastered early in their career. Their early material has aged much better than most of the stuff their peers made, and they’ve been putting out some really solid records on a consistent basis for 20 years now. Coming off strong after 2014’s great They Want My Soul, the indie veterans are back at it with their ninth studio album, Hot Thoughts.
Hot Thoughts finds Spoon in a comfortable middle ground between their signature sound and mild electronic experimentation. It’s hardly the first time they’ve introduced electronic layering in their music, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that they’re giving it a go for a whole album. Don’t you think this is your typical “white guys in their forties try to go electronic” album, though; at this point, it seems like Spoon can pretty much pull anything off quite effortlessly while avoiding dire clichés. It helps that their approach to songwriting remains untouched - their music is still hugely reliant on the rhythm section, which takes songs like “WhisperI’lllistentohearit” or “Can I Sit Next To You?” up a notch.
Opening the album with a groovy blast, the title track is basically a single verse repeated over and over again for four minutes, but Spoon is the kind of band that can get away with that. A distinctive product of America’s unstable political climate, ‘Tear It Down’ is a piano-led sing-along that will be inevitably linked to the current US government: “Let ‘em build a wall around us / I don’t care, we’re gonna tear it down”, sings Britt Daniel in what may be one of their catchiest tunes ever. The electronic flourishes are especially prominent in album highlight “First Caress”, which wouldn’t have been out of place in New Order’s Technique.
Four tracks into Hot Thoughts, it feels like this is mostly going to be an upbeat pop record, but then a six-minute largely instrumental track called “Pink Up” comes out of the blue and leaves you shaking. And that’s not even the biggest shock here: closing track “Us” is arguably Spoon’s most sonically sprawling song to date. It’s an instrumental piece driven by Jim Eno’s fantastic drumming and filled with massive horn arrangements that can’t possibly get any louder. For a band that usually sticks to simplicity, “Us” is an impressive musical accomplishment. It sounds like Spoon’s attempt to write a post-rock song right after hearing Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock for the very first time; one of those weird occasions when a spartan rock band gets more pretentious than they should and it somehow turns out alright. And that pretty much sums up what Spoon are about, doesn’t it? They just can’t do anything wrong, and Hot Thoughts is just the latest example of their enduring genius.
Release: 17th March 2017, Matador