Spoon were in a bit of a no man’s land after the release of 2017’s Hot Thoughts. The electronic and experimental album was a solid piece of work, and got rave reviews when it dropped. Despite that, bandleader Britt Daniel noticed that the songs really came alive when the group played live.
“It’s just different. I like it a lot. I’m glad we did it,” Daniel recalls. “And I’m glad we went down that path and we kind of pushed out and tried some things we’d never done before, but you always kind of react against react to the last record you’ve made, or at least I do. I felt like we should turn some kind of corner.”
The path forward was clear: Spoon were firing on all cylinders as a live band, having gelled into a driving rock and roll machine in their third decade. So it was obvious for the band to adapt the live approach to their next record, Lucifer on the Sofa.
It is immediately clear what their M.O. is on album opener ‘Held’. With studio chatter and in-song direction from Daniel, the track careens itself wildly towards its conclusion, unafraid to let the jagged edges and impromptu improvisations show. The polished perfection of albums like They Want My Soul and Hot Thoughts is no longer prioritised, even though the band once again pairs up with the producer responsible for those two albums, Dave Fridmann. This is Spoon at their wild, ragged, and uncut best.
‘The Hardest Cut’ sounds like a lost Queens of the Stone Age record, all the way done to strapping on your boots and walking into the desert. Daniel brought the group back to his home state of Texas to give the album a different feel, and the extra heat is all over Lucifer on the Sofa. ‘The Devil & Mr. Jones’ sways with a distinctly southern swagger, while ‘Astral Jacket’ pops with some electric piano work that recalls the great Spooner Oldham’s iconic keyboard contributions to the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.
Apart from some more downtempo diversions, like the stark and spooky title closing track, Lucifer on the Sofa is the most barebones rock record that Spoon has made in since 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. But Daniel isn’t looking to the past. “I do like to move forward,” he said. “I mean, we’ve never done a tour where we do one old song in that way. I always wanted to move forward. I always thought, ‘What’s the next thing?’”.
The album is sleek, slick, and succinct, fitting in everything it has to say in a tidy sub-40 minute runtime. The fact that most of Lucifer on the Sofa had been completed and subsequently sat on the shelf while the band coped with the Covid pandemic does nothing to dull the impact. There are no cobwebs on any of the tracks, whether it’s the driving impact of ‘Wild’ or the haunting guitar stabs on ‘Satellite’.
Spoon somehow manage to make a record that sounds both contemporary and completely out of time. No modern music sounds like this, and yet it feels perfectly placed in the modern day. It’s all part of Spoon’s signature blend of detached wit and impassioned emotion. They’ve managed to avoid letting the formula get stale by adding new elements at every turn.
Lucifer on the Sofa is more than just a new coat of paint for Spoon. It’s a fresh start, and an indication that one of rock’s most reliably great bands is losing none of its potency, even as they creep up on their 30th anniversary. It’s not a world-changing record; rather, it’s just a really, really good Spoon record. That’s more than just admirable – it’s damn fun too.