in Review

Spoon – Hot Thoughts

Spoon is a good band.

This is probably about as close to an irrefutable fact that is not actually a fact but a mere opinion that you’re going to get from any 21st century rock music fan. Well, other than that Radiohead is a good band. But unlike Radiohead, Spoon have actually rocked since the 21st century began, or at least in their own conventionally unconventional way. And perhaps that’s what’s made them one of the great bands of the last two decades – their willingness to embrace rock tropes while undercutting and reconstructing what those tropes are in their own image.

Firstly, I’ll just say that I hadn’t willingly accepted Spoon as one of the great rock bands of our era until the release of their last album, 2014’s great They Want My Soul. Also, I realize using “great” as an adjective for the previously mentioned album is probably redundant. Because Spoon are always at the very least good, and more often than not, very good to great. Though deciding how high any Spoon album places on the good-to-great-o-metter is not a very interesting discussion, but a necessary one. And I suppose it’s for that reason that I thought about Spoon so little between the release 2010’s Transference and They Want My Soul – they’re such a consistently good band that it’s boring.

Now, I realize I’m not the first person to make this observation, and I hardly think I’ll be the last. But I think getting bored with Spoon for being so consistent is kind of unfair, because the reason they remain so consistently good is by constantly pushing against the temptation to be safe and “boring”. Because even though we all know roughly what to expect a Spoon album to sound like, I wouldn’t say any two Spoon albums quite sound the same. Which is made all the more confusing that I’d say the two Spoon albums that sound the most alike (2005’s Gimme Fiction and 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga) are still very highly regarded on their own merits.

Spoon’s latest release, Hot Thoughts, amazingly, 20+ years in to their career continues this long-running streak of sounding exactly like Spoon, but while not really sounding like any other Spoon album that’s came before it. Yes, They Want My Soul clearly laid the seeds for this funkier, more electronic sound with the pulsating rhythms of “Outlier”, which wouldn’t necessarily feel like one placed next to the darkly dance-able songs on Hot Thoughts.

It’s pretty much a given that any Spoon album will have at least one stand-out single, and Hot Thoughts’ title track is certainly that, as it kind of lays down this album’s M.O. pretty succinctly. “I Ain’t The One” is another track worth noting, in that it’s a reminder that this band can be emotionally vulnerable in a pretty sneaky way, despite the fact that they’ve often been defined by their detached cool-ness.

That said, one does have to wonder if the emotionally vulnerable side of Spoon might be due to take center stage for a full-fledged “mature Spoon album”. But maybe that’s what makes an album like Hot Thoughts feel unique – while most bands at this point in their careers would be content to get old and grey (and sound like it), Spoon are more than willing to incorporate more modern sounds into their air-tight formula. And fortunately, as I just hinted at, there are plenty more different ways for Spoon to continue sounding like Spoon in new ways.

Favorite Tracks: “Hot Thoughts”, “I Ain’t The One”, “Tear It Down”