Admittedly, if asked to recall a single Spoon album, let alone a single track, I’m going to come up short. It’s a band that never really stuck with me, and in preparation for this review, I had to go back and be sure I didn’t already have some foundational knowledge. I went. I do not. That is my fault.
That said, I wanted to give Lucifer on the Sofa, released today, the good ol’ Kori try. By that, I mean I had to put it on in the car while driving on a road trip. I get my most authentically sticky musical experiences in the car. In the same way that some people do their best thinking when they’re pacing back and forth, I do my best listening when I’m behind the wheel. Take me out of the driver’s seat and I’m dead to the world.
With three decades of music under their belt, Spoon has conjured a perfectly efficient, driving album. This album is nothing if not a behind-the-wheel album. It gives southern vampire filth in the first half, breaking way to a more melodic pop rock smoothness in the second. Lucifer is eclectic, moving between soul, strict pop, gospel, jangly electronic, and back again, often being somehow both nondescript and fascinating. The whole album feels like a nearly worshipful homage to several eras and the musical gods that made them.
Opening with “Held”—a Smog cover—Lucifer is already earning bonus points for me, a Bill Callahan devotee. And the cover is really good. It’s pretty dirty and slightly frenetic (to a degree), however restrained. My personal rule for a cover is that it must do it better or do it different to be good. This cover is different, and maaaaaaybe better than the OG. If I hadn’t known this to be a cover, you could easily convince me that Spoon’s rendition is the original. It just has so much firm, primordial ass to it. You know what I mean? #primordialass
Spoon carries this ass for several tracks before giving way to more heart. “Wild” starts with Jim Eno smacking out a super familiar percussion (think “Closer” by NIN), but melts out into this scratchy, 70s warm indie fullness. “My Babe” follows by digging its studded heels into an emotive, old-school rock and roll reminiscent of Neil Diamond or The Sound. I feel like when people describe the quintessential Spoon sound, this track captures that to a great extent. There’s a wonderful symmetry of complementary variables to these compositions that eluded me with Spoon before. I can’t quite place them, and that may be why it never stuck to my younger ears, which perhaps needed starker definitions. Oh, searching youth!
“Astral Jacket” is the most fun track with the most Kori Appeal™️ , with its saccharine early 90s midi keyboard accents and its relaxed, old-white-boys-basking-in-the-island-breeze vocals. It’s nice to get this silkiness mid-album, a stylish little departure from Britt Daniel’s notorious scratch.
Damn that’s good. Y’all ever sway in the driver’s seat?
The penultimate track “Satellite” is the equivalent of doing that hand surfing thing out the window. Just really pretty, evocative of a different carefree time. Its jangly. This one tapped into a nostalgia I had long forgotten. At times, there’s a weird beachiness to this album I can’t quite put my finger on.
(Stay with me for a moment: this album is laying supine on the beach of my buried memory’s ocean. 😅)
If you would permit me to qualify the album with one more word, let me do so with tight. There’s nothing excessive about Lucifer on the Sofa. With a title like that, I may have gotten ideas beforehand about all sorts of over-the-top components, but here I am, eating a well-balanced, variegated meal with the devil on a not-too-plush couch. We’re chillin, but responsibly.
My only real critique of Lucifer: it could use a bit more filth. It got me in the first half, not gonna lie. The fuzz is shy when it’s there, and I wanted a little more.
Still, there’s a timelessness to the ways these songs progress, as though what I have here before me is actively building on previous work. I appreciate this sort of careful curation to one’s own output more and more as I get older. Honestly, I feel sort of bad that I never gave Spoon a better chance in my more prolific band-scouring days. This album is an argument to go back and listen to discographies and to pay some fucking attention to whatever it is you’re listening to right now, even the background stuff at the grocery store. You might be missing out. They got some bangers at Winn Dixie.