SOME MUSICIANS are mortified by the thought of hearing their own music, but Spoon’s Britt Daniel isn’t one of them. The frontman of the Austin indie rock quartet, which is more than a quarter-century old and has placed three albums in the top 10 of the Billboard 200, has no time for false modesty.
“I know a lot of my friends don’t want to listen to their records or even hear them on the radio, but I love this record,” Daniel says of the band’s latest, 2017’s Hot Thoughts. “I’ve listened to it quite a lot.” So are there some situations he’d rather not hear it? “Definitely a funeral,” he responds. “Probably a break-up conversation.”
Hot Thoughts, Spoon’s ninth album in a career that began with 1996’s Telephono, could in fact supply a soundtrack for a funeral or a break-up conversation — or the surge of a Saturday night and a discombobulated dawn. It takes the band’s cool assurance and adds an urgent, eclectic edge. “I wanted to make a record that had depth to it, that goes to different places, sometimes on the same song,” Daniel says. “To me, the most important thing the band does is albums — they need to exist as a complete piece of work. If we can make something that goes in a bunch of different directions yet has a tight hold, that’s what my favorite records do.”
There are recurring elements in the band’s make-up — calmly parched percussion, crackling guitar sounds and nimble, expressive basslines — but they combine seamlessly to forge new outcomes. Each Spoon record is recognizably a Spoon record; each Spoon record is different.
“I do like records where it’s all one mood,” Daniel says. “I admire those records, like an early Cure record or Prince’s 1999, which is just cold dance music. But I also admire [the Beatles’] White Album, which is all over the place. ”
Sometimes you can hear Spoon’s music as a struggle between Daniel’s self-control and the emotion looking to overwhelm him. He takes listeners to the edge but doesn’t give himself over.
“The records are a combination of the intended, the accidental and thought out, and simply what happens,” says the 48-year-old. “We’ll start with something that’s there, like chords and melody, then throw things at it to put ourselves in the situation where things happen that we never could have planned. The magic comes from those moments.”
It’s the willingness to experiment —and the ability to create new sounds that are nevertheless still readily recognizable as Spoon — that have kept the group relevant. Many of Spoon’s contemporaries from the 1990s and 2000s have fallen away as they’ve prospered.
And as long as Daniel is still happy to listen to Spoon’s music, the band will play on.
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