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Rock

Spoon

They Want My Soul

[Loma Vista]

4 stars

Since Spoon is clearly a critical darling of a band, one might feel compelled to treat the group’s output with a certain amount of skepticism. When you, unless you are a slavish follower of fashion, are told over and over again that something is great, you just don’t want to believe it, and you long to present a strong case for the opposite belief. Very often, this is a healthy impulse. Once in a while, it isn’t.

Spoon represents that “once in a while.” A healthy portion of the critical community adores the Texas-formed band. For once, they’re right.

“They Want My Soul” is the band’s eighth album, and easily one of its finest. That we’re saying this nearly 20 years into Spoon’s career is a minor miracle, for alternative rock bands, if they last, don’t usually age well, and very rarely continue to put out their best work in later phases of their career, unless they happen to be Pearl Jam or David Bowie. If “They Want My Soul” was Spoon’s debut, it would insist on being hailed as a major masterpiece. Since Spoon has never made a bad album, we have to settle for labeling it with the damning-by-faint-praise “yet another great album.” Whatever we call it, we should be thankful for it.

It has been four years since the band’s “Transference” album, a period during which leader Britt Daniel launched the Divine Fits, and Spoon loyalists pined for a new album, even if they were beginning to doubt they’d get one. “They Want My Soul” scratches the itch, bringing the slightly nervous and agitated rhythms, skittish grooves, roughshod but beautiful vocal melodies, vintage keyboard tones and visceral, garage rock-informed guitar tones that have always been part of Spoon’s appeal to a refreshingly vibrant set of new tunes. “Transference” was a great album, but one listen to “They Want…” makes it seem less so; this is a Spoon as on-fire and on-point as the one that recorded and released “Kill the Moonlight” in 2002.

The band boasts a new member in guitarist Alex Fischel, and he certainly adds spark throughout the album, particularly during the title tune and the sly, snaky garage rocker “Rent I Pay.” But it’s the full ensemble, and the way it works to so seamlessly support Daniel’s singing – sometimes raspy and raw, sometimes sensual and sweet, but always compelling – that makes Spoon what it is. And what it is is that rarest of rare beasts – an alternative rock band that just seems to proceed from strength to strength.

- Jeff Miers