Spoon have been borrowing from The Rolling Stones their entire career. But there’s something about the way ninth album Hot Thoughts resembles the Stones 1978 classic Some Girls that’s hard to shake. From the 10-track, 40 minute running time to the sexy disco swagger of each record’s opening track and lead single, there’s an undeniable parallel.
That’s a good thing and Hot Thoughts is perhaps Spoon’s best single to date, even if it does owe a debt to Miss You. For a band that’s made a living producing critically acclaimed, consistently great “albums”, Hot Thoughts stands out on the radio like nothing they’ve done before.
It also gives the record a slightly top-heavy feel. That’s not to say this isn’t another terrifically consistent album from Spoon, it’s just the only other track that’s quite as good as Hot Thoughts is the one experimental counterpoint, Pink Up, which also slides into the front half. Add electronic highlight WhisperI’lllistentohearit at track two and you’ve got the most frontloaded Spoon album to date.
You’ll probably hear Hot Thoughts described as Spoon’s electronic album, and perhaps that’s true, but more than that it’s their most production-heavy, synth-laden record. Where previously they interspersed minimalist arrangements with infrequent bursts of white noise and spaced out effects, here producer Dave Fridmann generates a consistent sound that pushes synth whiz Alex Fischel to the fore and eliminates much of Spoon’s signature rawness and leftfield sound.
And of course, Spoon’s experimental side owes a lot to The Beatles. From the John Lennon-indebted Knock Knock Knock off 2014’s They Want My Soul, to Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga’s masterpiece The Ghost of You Lingers, to pretty much all of 2010’s underrated gem Transference, it’s always felt like Spoon had an uncanny knack for balancing singer Britt Daniel’s rock and roll fixation with The Beatles’ pop experimentalism.
They certainly have the taste to pull off a love affair with both, but here it feels like the Beatles have been traded for a more modern, shiny production – for a time when only the Stones still exist.
What’s perhaps lacking is one of Daniel’s lyrical tour de forces in the mould of Out Go the Lights or I Summon You. Admittedly the piano-led I Ain’t the One is a natural successor to the latter, it just never manages to connect in the same way.
But for anything fans might miss, there’s usually a fresh moment such as the sax-led, instrumental closer Us that comes from way outside Spoon’s usual comfort zone and keeps Hot Thoughts sounding fresh. Much like Some Girls did in ’78.
If the overarching issue of David Fridmann’s big production is it dampens that trademark Spoon raw appeal, it’s at least a logical progression and fans of tracks such as Outlier and New York Kiss from They Want My Soul will find plenty to get excited about.
And let’s not shy away from the likely logic behind it all – this is going to sound huge in concert.