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Hot Thoughts, Spoon’s 9th album, is the bravest, most sonically inventive work of their career, though keep in mind, Britt Daniel has already overseen a number of other reincarnations. With all due respect to earlier efforts that have made the band both critically acclaimed and a commercial contender, preconceptions about Spoon are about to be obliterated.
That’s not to say Hot Thoughts doesn’t have a requisite supply of infectious earworms — WE DIDN’T SAY THIS WAS A DIFFERENT BAND (though this is the first Spoon album with no acoustic guitar) — but there’s a lyrical bent that’s as carnal as it’s crafty, and a newfound sense of sonic exploration that results in the genre-smasher Spoon have flirted with in the past but not fully consummated.
The ten songs on Hot Thoughts run the gamut from the kaleidoscopic opening title track (as tone-setting as say, “Dirty Mind” for the album it commences) through the gargantuan stomp of “Do I Have To Talk You Into It” and ubiquitous wiry hooks of “Can I Sit Next To You” to the bittersweetness of “I Ain’t The One” and the deadpan swing of “Tear It Down” — less the telling of an apocalyptic vision and more what Daniel describes as a song about “empathy for strangers.” Ample recognition should be tossed in the direction of Dave Fridmann, whose wizard-level ingenuity has brought a diabolical sheen to the band’s swagger (there may be many great ways to occupy one’s time in Cassadaga, New York, but we do know that holing up at Fridmann’s studio to make a masterpiece is one of them).
Without question, the prior works of Daniel, drummer Jim Eno, bassist Rob Pope and no-longer-a-secret weapon Alex Fischel have scaled some lofty heights (from 1996 debut LP Telephono, 1998’s A Series Of Sneaks, 2001’s Girls Can Tell, 2002’s Kill The Moonlight, 2005’s recently reissued in deluxe 10th anniversary grandeur Gimme Fiction, through the trifecta of U.S. Top 10 albums that was Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007), Transference (2010) and They Want My Soul (2014), you’re talking about a winning streak that’s nothing short of Mayweather-esque), but Hot Thoughts is a daring, futuristic chapter in the Spoon story. Daniel’s spot in the pantheon of rock’s genius songwriters was established long ago—but with the crackling, incandescent, multi-dimensional backdrop conjured on Hot Thoughts, the lines between accessible and experimental become non-factors for once and all. It’s pop as high art, delivered with total confidence and focus.
Give Twin Peaks an inch and they’ll take a stretch of the road. Having careened across America and beyond, sharing their staggering energy, the band made their third album the best way they know how: by themselves. The same group that produced the scuzzy squalor of their debut Sunken, had legions of fans screaming along to their anthemic sophomore effort, Wild Onion, now swings and serenades with Down In Heaven (released via Grand Jury on May 13, 2016).