Spoon are the most reliable great American rock band of the past 25 years. That might say more about American rock than it does about Spoon, but facts don’t lie. They’ve been at it since the mid-Nineties, and they’ve never made a dull record, thanks to leader Britt Daniel’s brilliant songwriting and a knack for nuancing their Texas indie rock. They do jittery guitar bangers; they throw in some soul; they try out electronics; they nod to Prince and the Kinks and Motown and Wire. But it always comes out sounding like Spoon: casually stylish and stunningly catchy, opaque but openhearted, bristling with the thrill of subtle invention.
In fact, over the years Spoon’s run has been so consistent and drama-free you can almost take them for granted. Which is why their 10th album, Lucifer on the Sofa, is so welcome. It’s the best thing they’ve ever done, more than exceeding their usual quotient of fire guitars, killer choruses, and crafty rock-history updates. Whether it’s the barbed-glam stomp of “The Hardest Cut,” the sidelong Seventies sleaze of “The Devil & Mister Jones” and “Lucifer on the Sofa,” or the rarefied roadhouse grit of “Held,” Spoon have never cranked up their Spooniness so Spoonfully.
There’s definitely a post-pandemic urgency here; after a couple of albums that leaned into studio digitalia, 2014’s They Want My Soul and 2017’s Hot Thoughts, this one feels like a return to the coiled, trenchant band-in-a-room brio of LPs like their 2002 classic, Kill the Moonlight. “Sing my heart out, beat my chest,” Daniel sings on “My Babe.” And so he does.
Proudly basic titles like “Wild,” “Feels Alright,” and “My Babe” sum up the thrill of getting back to old-fashioned rock & roll kicks. With “Wild,” Daniel lets loose a ferocious Neil Diamond homage, like he’s heroically sweating out a hot August night of the soul. He says he spent a lot of time during quarantine listening to his Tejas homies ZZ Top, and you can hear that in the way the tense, torrid guitars lash into notoriously locked-in drummer Jim Eno’s hypnotic precision on pretty much every song. For a little languid, pulse-slowing beauty, there’s the Ray Davies whimsy of “Astral Jacket.”
They’ve even got a song called “On the Radio,” which sounds like what it suggests: a Nineties indie-rock guy channeling a lifetime of close listening into an ode to salvation by the FM dial. In some ways, it’s kind of an absurd sentiment in our stream-y times — kind of the 2022 equivalent of the Little River Band singing about dancing to Glenn Miller on “Reminiscing” in 1978. But Daniel delivers his dashboard gospel with the spiritual intensity of a Pentecostal holy roller. Lucifer on the Sofa is that kind of record, the sound of ancient dreams born again.