Hot Thoughts is an inscrutable obelisk of rock and roll. Because Spoon records contain such a large measure of subtlety, our culture of musical immediacy can overlook their genius. Not critically, mind you; they are darlings for a reason. But to the average body-painted festival goer, they sound similar to the Franz Ferdinand or Band of Horses or something. Repeated listens always reveal something closer to carefully structured skyscrapers. To me, the Mt. Rushmore of indie rock is easy — Dinosaur Jr., Guided by Voices, Pavement, and yes, Spoon.
They are like the Cal Ripken of indie rock. Always present, at 100-percent, ready to roll. It has led to some well-documented complacency at peak Spoon. Its hard to find a person referencing their 2010 lower-fi triumph Transference without discussing it as a record that was overlooked or downgraded because of their consistency. Taking longer breaks between their last 2 records has helped our collective desire to enjoy a record of this quality.
Hot Thoughts is sleek, it’s succinct. It launches into action with its title track, a sexy, quick, pop rock song with hooks to spare. The bridge kicks into high gear with an Of Montreal echoing BGV, as it accelerates into the finish line — it's impossible to not want to hit repeat. Track two is the Prince-esque titled “Whisper I'll Listen to Hear It” which plays the classic Spoon trick of 2-3 pieces sounding as full as a six piece band. For half of the track, it is a synth line repeating, a clean guitar and Britt Daniel’s vox. When the full band comes in, it's dizzying and powerful, but still strikingly thin on overall pieces. The driving bass and a simple drum pattern carry so much weight, and when Daniel’s guitar returns, it's no longer clean but piercing as he howls over top of a quick two measure solo.
Spoon is so frugal. The songs here have enough strong sections to last six or seven minutes, but they have been edited and cut and chopped and purified until what’s left is what moves the ball down the field. Just like the opening track, when “Whisper” has ten seconds left, it feels like it's about to take off for a 3-minute jam, but not Spoon, and again, you just want to hit repeat.
“Do I Have to Talk You Into It” has a rhythmic piano and fuzzy piano lines and Britt sings in a cadence that demands you learn the lyrics and sing along. Brian Jones guitar lines act like icing along the main track as Britt’s energy builds and falls seemingly at will. “Can I Sit Next To You” is a descendant of the now-classic “I Turn My Camera On”, in fact, in overall tone, Hot Thoughts itself is that song made into a whole record. With a synth hook to match their best, “Can I Sit” will sit well on their setlists for years to come.
“I Ain’t the One” is a piano ballad on a Wurlitzer floating down a river. It harks back to “Goodbye Laura” but one-ups it with more energy, a better melody, and a bigger build. “Tear it Down” starts with a Coldplay organ, but quickly moves into a groove swagger with the piano keeping as much time as the drums.
Each side of the record closes with an exploratory piece of instrumental music. “Pink Up” does lead to vocals in a Pink Floyd-like chant. It's new ground for the band and a welcome step forward for a band who seems to always peer inward to take their song perfection from 98 to 99-percent.
Put every Spoon moment, every song, every riff, every Britt Daniels howl and whisper into a blender and you have Hot Thoughts. This may sound like a middling comment, a back door way to say average. But any long-term Spoon fan will know, Spoon means quality and consistency, and this record serves as a recap, or introduction, or best of. Or maybe, Hot Thoughts is another top tier indie rock record from the most consistent band in the game.
What band has had as many 4-star records in a row as Spoon? Most would say that Girls Can Tell, Kill the Moonlight, and Gimme Fiction are four or more star records. Transference, their dark horse record is also at that level, as is 2014’s They Want My Soul and 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. As is their label debut A Series of Sneaks which is the true underrated record of their catalog where Transference is usually cited. Hot Thoughts sits nicely with those records quality-wise. What other band has that many 4 or more star records in a row? Spoon has 8.
Pink Floyd has 3-4. Blur has 4-5. Guided by Voices has 3. Smashing Pumpkins had 3-4. The Replacements had 4. Beach House has 4. Elliott Smith had 5. Sigur Ros, Kraftwerk, My Bloody Valentine, Beach Boys, Boards of Canada all had 2-3. The Beatles had 7. Depending on your feelings about Hail to the Thief and The King of Limbs Radiohead has 8. Am I saying that Spoon is on the same level as Radiohead and the Beatles? No.
Well, maybe I am. A MINUS