Spoon’s Lucifer On The Sofa sits comfortably

Each Spoon album has its worthwhile tracks, but my top two remain Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and 2017’s Hot Thoughts. Probably not a typical duo, and admittedly on the more produced side.

In that context, Lucifer On The Sofa lands clearly ahead of pre-Girls Can Tell releases as also later efforts Tranference and They Want My Soul.

No duds, with a good blend of signature sounds and twists, some creative arrangement/production, so … middle of the pack? That’s no slight for a catalog this good.

Smog alert

“For the first time in my life, I’m letting myself be held like a big ooooooold baby …”

Spoon’s latest opens with what sounds like a meaningful personal development.

It’s not. In fact, “Held” isn’t even a Britt Daniel song. Lucifer On The Sofa commences with a Smog (aka Bill Callahan) cover that the band used to play live. In fact, as Daniel told the Austin Chronicle, its prominent position has less to do with the song than the in-studio chat that survived to the final version.

Favorite part: an escalating Beatleque tension that eventually gives way to a drum fill and climax before the strings/synths take a long fall back into the primary groove.

Swinging singles

Spoon enlisted Tchad Blake to mix “The Hardest Cut” and what could easily be another single, “The Devil And Mister Jones”.

“The Hardest Cut” rides on that taut, tight-rubber-band riff and some occasional handclaps. Taking two full verse/chorus laps in only 2:30, the track opts for … guitar solo! Before another chorus and signoff. On the eve of a possible Russian invasion into Ukraine, it feels somehow topical and classic Spoon.

“The Devil And Mister Jones”, on the other hand, breaks out the soul-esque bass lines and fresh syncopated guitar chords. This one is more in the spirit of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, with its background ooooh’s, piano, and also horns courtesy of Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin. The track doesn’t end as much makes a hard turn into …

“Wild”, which boasts a Jack Antonoff co-write. Maybe he can take credit for the big, Elton-esque piano chords in the chorus. Either way, it’s a comparatively unusual but entirely enjoyable moment for Spoon. That’s on top of the more typical confident groove, driving rhythm guitar, and an explanation that “the world, still so wild, called to me …”

Then, with a little wolf howl, it edges its way back into the wilderness.

Feels alright …

Is the fitting name for track one, side two. Spoon makes a big riff bigger by doubling it on both guitar and piano over a mix of real and sampled drums. I especially love the guitar swagger right after the first chorus that takes it back into the next verse. The next that that point comes around, the track mixes it up by diving into a spacier interlude instead.

The opening of “On The Radio” sounds like it could be Spoon’s fellow Austinites, Fastball (whose quite good The Help Machine was produced by Berlin in 2019, coincidentally). In the mix: it’s easy to focus on the barrelhouse piano riff and descending bass in the chorus, but note the rude guitar in the right channel.

“Astral Jacket” softens the mood considerably. Fender Rhodes, acoustic strums, Beckesque wordless vocals. And waxing fondly about those magical moments of musical immersion, the vulnerability overall did catch me by surprise.

“God walks into the room softly / You feel it when you hit that sound …”

The devil’s in the den

After some fuzzed-out guitar solo bliss in “Satellite”, the title track opens with what sounds like some horns being played down the hall.

“Lucifer On The Sofa” conjures a sense of loss, thanks in part to those old cassettes and cigarettes and whatever’s left behind in the house. The choice of keyboards – a little chilly, a little wobbly – creates the soundtrack of an aimless drive around town on a sunny winter day.

“Tell me the truth later, and just lie tonight / For now, I need peace, and nothing feels right …”

The groove continues as long saxophone lines cross the skies high above like jet trails. It’s a restless, untethered way to end an album, but if you like moody Spoon, it’s a good last glimpse of Daniel, Eno, and mates.

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