They Want My Soul
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 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.”
“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
Something odd here. If you haven’t been following pop music all that assiduously during the 12 years in which Richard Linklater’s film “Boyhood” is set, you’re likely to be startled at how very many of the artists and performers on the movie’s soundtrack seem to be doing impressions of the Beatles.
Obviously, a lot of that has do with the taste of exceptional filmmaker Linklater. But you can’t get around the simple fact of the Beatles’ formative influence on everything the best popular music of subsequent decades has striven to be since they were around.
The performers on this disc include some of the most praised and/or popular for our new century – Wilco, Coldplay, The Hives, Cobra Starship, The Black Keys, Gotye, Yo La Tengo, Family of the Year and Arcade Fire. Formative ringers from earlier generations are McCartney and Wings’ “Band on the Run” and Bob Dylan’s “Beyond the Horizon.” And there, you might say, are two landmark influences between which you’ll find everyone else here.
The whole middle section of Wilco’s “Hate It Here,” is introduced by a riff from the Beatles ca. “Magical Mystery Tour.”
Obviously, it’s all supposed to denote what a sensitive, growing white adolescent with pretty good taste would listen to and take to heart but, nevertheless, the degree of homage to all the things brought to pop music by the Liverpudlians is a bit astounding in such bulk.
We’re not talking about Cobra Starship’s “Good Girls Gone Bad,” which is featureless, specimen pop music of our era – overproduction in place of lyrical and melodic distinction.
It’s directly followed on the disc by its opposite, Dylan’s “Beyond the Horizon” with zephyrous, parody pseudo-tropical sounds blowing through the music from a consummate musical joker whose lyrics aren’t kidding and are at total variance with the ersatz-Hawaiian sounds.
A movie soundtrack disc that winds up to be even more interesting than it thinks it is.
– Jeff Simon
The idea is a familiar one by now. Heaven knows we’ve been hearing minor and even drastic re-creations of piano trios in jazz – acoustic and otherwise – for a long while now, what with E.S.T., The Bad Plus, Medeski, Martin and Wood and the music of Brad Mehldau (which, when electrified, goes a long way away from Bill Evans, Michel Petrucciani and Keith Jarrett).
This is the second disc by the young Canadian trio Myriad 3, composed of Chris Donnelly on piano and synthesizer, Don Fortini on bass and Ernesto Cervini on drums and percussion.
The music is wildly and impressively eclectic. “The Strong One” is, paradoxically, a tender and beautiful modal ballad.
It’s followed by the appropriately named “Bebop Medley,” which surreally juxtaposes Bud Powell’s “Un Poco Loco” with, among other things, Monk tunes, Dizzy Gillespie’s “Manteca” and lord-knows-what. The result is a collection of fragments without meaning – rather cheekily and intentionally so.
The title composition by bassist Fortin, he says, “came from a New York Times article I was reading about a guy kayaking in a canyon, mapping it for Google. The idea that all information – who, what, where – can be commodified left me thinking for a while.” And writing fascinating music.
The other nouveau piano jazz trios would get this disc. Gillespie too, maybe. It’s hard to dislike a disc where the drummer got an idea for a tune from the rhythmic accents made by his clothes dryer.
I’m not sure Monk and Bud Powell would like it at all, though. It really is a different musical beast altogether from conventional acoustic piano trios in jazz.
Fans of shows like “American Idol” will enjoy this debut CD by 18-year-old Charlotte Jaconelli, who shot to stardom overseas on the series “Britain’s Got Talent.” She comes from the Scottish industrial city of Glasgow, and perhaps that’s why she sounds so unaffected. She has a Broadway strength, but hardly any vibrato, and a kind of artless and vulnerable sound, sort of like America’s Idina Menzel.
I like her ladylike demeanor, and I like her voice. The only trouble is that the disc is too same old, same old. An entire song genre surrounds these voice talent shows, and I felt I had heard too much of all Jaconelli’s selections. “On My Own,” from “Les Mis,” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Pie Jesu” and “All I Ask Of You,” the aria “I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls,” the pop number “Right Here Waiting” – they’re pretty, but how many times can we hear them, you know? Even Randy Newman’s “Feels Like Home” felt, well, too much like home. The disc ends with a euphoric but controlled “I Could Have Danced All Night.” We commend Jaconelli on her ladylike debut CD.
– Mary Kunz Goldman