Spoon’s Hot Thoughts gets the fans dancing
Texas band pares down its sparse sound and gets into a dirty-funk hook for its latest seductive release
With its latest record, Hot Thoughts, Spoon manages to do something few thought possible. The Austin, Texas, band actually pares down its already sparse sound and puts even more space into the 10 tracks.
The result is the band’s most-seductive, and also funky, release.
Songwriter, lead-singer and guitarist Britt Daniel says that drummer Jim Eno will have his work cut out for him, as the beats on Hot Thoughts are incredibly precise.
“Yeah, in the beginning we didn’t know if we could do a song like Pink Up live because of all the beats and we didn’t play it for the first few months we were touring as it was very much a studio creation,” said Daniel. “Then we started playing it on the European tour and I think we did it and have got it down.”
Hot Thoughts is loaded with the most club-happy vibes of any album from Spoon. The single, Can I Sit Next to You?, the title track and First Caress are some of the most-danceable ever. Daniel admits that he was somewhat surprised by their reception. “I didn’t necessarily expect a song like Can I Sit Next to You? to do so well,” he said. “I knew that Hot Thoughts and Can I Talk You Into It would do well right away, but people really seem to be in the mood to dance.”
Daniel, Eno, bassist Rob Pope and keyboardist Alex Fishel have always had a serious, if spacious, groove. But getting into the Spoon equivalent of a dirty-funk hook is somewhat of a new thing.
“I was surprised, and not unpleasantly so, reading critics calling this our ‘dance record,’ ” said Daniel. “We have always had some roots in R&B and if they want to say that it’s all fine. But we didn’t want to make a record that was backward-looking in any way, so there is no acoustic guitar and we have really used Alex, who can play anything on the keyboards, all throughout.”
But don’t come to Hot Thoughts expecting any extended jams or wahwah workouts. Spoon is a band that has steadily progressed since 2001’s “comeback” Girls Can Tell into a precision unit whose songs are each works of meticulous, razor-sharp editing. This isn’t to say that their material is cold or over-produced.
There just isn’t anything anywhere to an excess amount.
“I get easily bored and so I like listening to records, of seeing a show where you know a lot of thought really went into it,” he said. “Once I started making records like that, I really got off on it and, let’s face it, nobody made Sgt. Pepper’s by accident.”
Spoon has fed fans its unique brand of rock to greater and greater success without really capturing the radio. The band plays soldout shows across Canada. Albums such as 2005’s brilliant Gimme Fiction took off and led to Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007), Transference (2010) and They Want My Soul (2014), all entering the U.S. Top 10.
Hot Thoughts came in at No. 1 on a number of charts.
“I’m not sure what it means, because what equals top spot one week can be No. 10 the next,” said Daniel. “Sometimes, the charts really can matter, such as when Kid A went No. 1 and what usually was in that spot was Genesis or a Beyoncé album, not some weird little electronic album.”
He really doesn’t care too much about charts or awards as much as being able to keep making the albums he wants to make. And this time around, there was a fair bit of sonic seduction involved.
“I sure hope so, because I had the title Hot Thoughts for quite awhile in my head and I knew I wanted to do something with it and had even tried it with another piece of music, which was pretty good,” he said. “Then my girlfriend called me from Shibuya, Japan, where she had been wandering about at 3 a.m. and told me a story of a man coming over to her and telling her that her teeth were shining so bright. I guess it was his way of hitting on her, and I hope it didn’t work, but that made it into the lyric and then another piece of music came and it was it.”
That’s how songs get written sometimes, he notes. But what about the instrumental tracks on the album? Did the lengthy lead in on Pink Up and the closing song Us come out of jams in the rehearsal studio as they so often do? This is new terrain for the group.
“I think about them more as soundscapes or movements that were happy accidents, which is why we kept them,” he said. “Since releasing Hot Thoughts, Us is actually the track I’ve listened to the most. Perhaps because it’s the least typical of me, I don’t know.”
Daniel says that he is always looking for “accidents he can use” in his creative output. He says that the entire band has always used this method in creating consistently excellent records. “Someone once told me that inspiration likes to find you working,” said Daniel.
Britt Daniel of Spoon says he did not expect the song Can I Sit Next to You? to do so well.