On their second title since returning to Matador, the Austin indie rock icons make their best album in years
To say Spoon is back happens to be a bit of a misnomer.
Like the photo of a fancily adorned Jack Nicholson shown in dapper form in an early 1920s gala in The Shining, they’ve always been here, pumping out solid record after record since the mid 90s and becoming indie heavyweights in the process.
However, something about this new release is making the cognoscenti claim they are back to true form, but a back to basics retread is hardly special, and this is not that. This is their second studio album back on Matador Records and it has them eschewing studio effects for a more organic live band approach developed both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Album: Lucifer on the Sofa
Label: Matador Records
★★★★1/2 (4.5/5 stars)
Yet Lucifer is hardly Spoon by the numbers as they mix in old school classic fm rock with a surprising amount of boogie and grit with their timeless sound to create something of a modern day classic with little waste and touching upon real life themes regarding domestic life bliss.
The album opens with “Held,” a cover of a Smog song done in spectacularly punchy Spoon form; the urgency of its original lyrics hit even harder. The galloping drums head into a dissonant mid-section truly rocking in a way few of that leaves the listener in the wake of expertly created wreckage . The second song, which is the first single of the album, “The Hardest Cut” is a straight up catchy bop that rollicks from start to finish with an unusually bouncy but minimalist bass line. This is a clear Spoon single but with a bit more rawness than they’ve shown in recent years.
Following this song is the soulful and funky “The Devil & Mister Jones,” whose sleek arrangement is augmented by a horn section and a xylophone. It’s got beautiful 70’s r&b harmonies which is a bit different from their more rock fare but still taut and tight. When Daniel sings ‘this world is fragile,’ you can hear he is pleading and you can’t help but believe him. “Wild” is next and was the second single from the album. It’s anthemic, containing a slow burn with a near ambient fade out. “My Babe,” which is the third single from the album thus far follows and is more reminiscent of the albums of Spoon yore like Hot Thoughts. “Babe” has lighter guitar strums and a pretty piano based melody, a ballad of sorts that builds to the album’s halfway climax beautifully.
The album is now halfway done and “Feels Alright” begins the second half with a taut stonesy groove kept in place by metronomic drumming. I believe it’s about being in sync with your partner and the music supports that idea beautifully. After this we get “On The Radio” which seems like an homage to the 70’s pop and rock that Spoon grew up on. It has a lush Electric Light Orchestra string section throughout with a small nod to “Mr. Blue Sky,” but with a rippling guitar lead.
VIDEO: Spoon “Wild”
As the album reaches the latter portion of its back half, things slow down a bit, but thankfully not to a halt. “Astral Jacket” is a stunning ballad with echoed vocals and a pretty organ that accompanies a lazy day in bed with your loved one. But if you weren’t fully relaxed by now and in gooey love with your significant other ,“Satellite” should do the trick. But midway comes a surprise which is a rippling almost Beatles-esque guitar solo from “Hey Jude” or “Let It Be.” The title track ends the album with a horn-laden slice of perfect galloping Spoony pop. Ending the album in gooey domestic love. This song is an extended jam of sorts but without any unresolved loose ends. Lucifer on The Sofa was Spoon the whole time.
All in all, what makes this album near perfect is that as tight and assured the music is with glistening, shimmering instrumentation, it’s actually quite lyrically modest and yet earnest. You get the sense that Spoon sincerely hopes you and the romantic partner they’re writing about loves it and you too.
I truly enjoyed this album and I think you will too, especially if you are the type of romantic who wears their heart on their sleeve like me.