The connections are clear, right? Michael Karoli’s cousin and girlfriend were the cover models for Roxy Music‘s album Country Life (1974); Spoon names itself after a song by Karoli’s band Can; and if Spoon isn’t America’s Roxy Music then I’m buying a ticket to Cologne and getting this all figured out for good. Spoon is the rock art band of the moment and of many previous moments, their career now in its twenty-somethingth year. Released this spring, the band’s latest, Hot Thoughts, along with LCD Soundsystem’s American Dream, gives the lie to what is otherwise a general truism: rock bands are a young person’s game. A killer set of songs with a sustained, youthful definition, Hot Thoughts makes me search my brain for other great rock records made by folks who are my age. A real, original rock record. With guts and balls and great songwriting and absolutely no fat. Not something worthy of elder statesmen or something celebrated by NPR for the maturity of its grizzled veterans, but damn, something that makes you want to dance and call out its lyrics without having much of a history with the band (and I don’t).
When Britt Daniel sings “I’ve been working on a plan, yeah” on “Can I Sit Next To You” he makes it feel like the most important words ever uttered. Part of this is his voice, which as rock vocals go is, as my 10-year-old would say, “savage, yo” (really). A mix of John Lennon, Iggy Pop, and Lee Mavers, Daniel can do falsetto soul back-to-back with a nasal/glottal/punky growl. This was the territory of the giants of early 70s British rock as it morphed into pub and punk, the White Album (yeah and maybe some Marvin Gaye…and Can…) in one hand and a lager in the other. So, everything is a hook but all the hooks have a Martin-esque depth of detail, flourish, and care, and a slightly shifted off-ness that makes it a slow, satisfying grower. When in the middle of the song the bulbs pop and the keyboards go eastern psychedelic, it opens the horizon and we’re getting a thumbnail funk view of the Arabian Peninsula. Sick — maybe the Cure would have thought of this but wouldn’t have been so economical, and there is whiff of “Fascination Street” lingering in the background. Jim Eno’s boss kick drum brings it back to old school, and if you’re like me you’re waiting for that crazy keyboard bit one more time, and it does come, hallelujah. With all it makes me think about, still…this is a conjuring music, an act of devotion not imitation. Song ’bout kicks and the lengths you might go to.
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