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“Attempting to Glean They Want My Soul as a Deliberate Ploy for Making Fun of Critics and Audience Members”

They Want My Soul, Spoon’s 2014 departure from Merge and entrance into Universal subsidiary Loma Vista, opens with big, booming drums, over which you can hardly hear yourself think, let alone grasp any subtle musical statements being made. Now, this is hardly shocking, even if it is an aberration within Spoon’s discography: Grizzly Bear, St. Vincent, Dirty Projectors [1] and countless other urban arbiters of “cool” in indie rock had employed big, monstrous drums in the decade or so prior, seeming to have finally imbibed the consummate ethos of Steve Albini. But it did, somehow, reassert the pesky notion I had from the start, given the hopelessly bland, Elton John-type album title Britt Daniel chose to christen this project with, that this whole thing was a big hoax.
Granted, I did see the video at one point for “Rainy Taxi,” and hear the song, and please let me emphasize that I was most relieved to find it enjoyable. It’s gotten good reviews, by and large, too. But something didn’t sit right to me about the very IDEA of Spoon issuing an entire album here in 2014, an age when Frank Ocean and The-Dream had been taking over the world of “indie,” or hipster, in an age when so many bands had already imitated Spoon, to albeit auspicious results, and when, most importantly, we already HAD Britt Daniels’ soul — in the form of six or so great albums. The “they” here seems clearly to refer to the band’s new major label (from which yes they have already now veered mind you)… and what this label gets is this album. There absolutely is no improving upon “Black Like Me” — it’s where Shel Silverstein’s sidewalk ends, and the only recourse is into cyberspace.
Well, the juggernaut that is pitchfork.com does churn on, and they quip, aptly enough, that They Want My Soul is Spoon’s most “booming” album. So they miked a bunch of drums up, in other words, and banged on them. Ok. Sounds therapeutic, provided that it’s not set to a sludgy, deliberate pace with a sort of faux-poignance. Oh. It is.
Ya know, I still haven’t really listened to the whole of They Want My Soul, and to be honest, I was mad at the band for even putting it out, when Transference I thought was so wrongly derided, and when there’s really no money to be made off of indie rock albums, or even arguably off of new rock in any regard. And don’t even get me started about the word “soul” — it is the biggest copout. It is the very antithesis of meaning on this planet, insofar as it is the one thing which survives extant upon EXITING of this planet.
In closing, I’d like to direct the reader’s attention to “TV Set,” Spoon’s 2015 single, which does not appear on 2014’s They Want My Soul. Anybody with half a brain would see that this is a deliberate attempt to mock audience and critics. It makes Weezer’s “Beverly Hills” sound like Jethro Tull. I mean it’s basically The Beach Boys’ “Fun, Fun, Fun” set to slightly more jangly guitars, and its very subject matter deals with an entire race which is basically hypnotized, which judges its entertainment in terms of its aesthetic qualities and its prior track record. It seems pitchfork just needed another poster boy “indie” album to tout — heck they might have even paid Daniel and company under the table to hastily furnish this one. But suffice it to say those opening drums, under which nothing much can be salvaged other than a band-aid for your ear drums, are Daniel’s compensation for the inner knowledge that he doesn’t have it in him to be anything close to a “brill bruiser.”
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[1] By the way, these are all New York acts, and Spoon’s best song (the Austin’s), “The Way We Get by,” plays as an ostensible travel brochure for what NOT to do in New York (“We rarely practice discern,” et. al.).

22 thoughts on ““Attempting to Glean They Want My Soul as a Deliberate Ploy for Making Fun of Critics and Audience Members”

  1. Women can be so hard to read. Our misunderstanding of things like this comes from the times they burned us with the ‒fine„ and “I don’t want a present” years ago. Good call though, I always try to error on the side of being there for my wife too. (MD) I learned almost from the outset that “I don’t want a present” means “You’d better not disappoint me, pal, or you’re toast.” Always better to err on the side of caution. Or at least have a great back up plan.

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