Power or Pub Rock… screw the labels: Spoon – Hot Thoughts

spoon hot thoughts

Very few bands garner my ever elusive “buy unheard” designation. That place where you drop cash on release day or do that advance order thing. With the popularity of music streaming sites and advance listens on popular music mag web pages, there isn’t much need for the mystery purchase. Regardless, Spoon remains one of the ‘only’ rock bands that actually matter. Whether it be their debut Girls Can Tell, the best-selling Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, my personal favorite Gimme Fiction, or even the half-hearted They Want My Soul, Spoon has remained not only one of the most consistently great bands of this new(ish) century, but also one of the most intriguing.

They don’t often give away the subjects of their songs, usually choosing to keep their cards close to the chest, but when they do… well damn! “Let them build a wall around us, I don’t care I’m going to tear it down…” are lyrics found on “Tear it Down” and coming from a bunch of Texans, it might as well be a declaration of war against ‘Forty-Five.’ Of course, the lyrics are veiled enough that one might see it another way… BUT COME ON – it was written during the f@#king Presidential Primaries.

The thing is, Britt Daniels could write just about anything and it would still allow you enough room to project just about anything you damn well please onto the lyrical theme. “Do I have to talk you into it?” is just open enough to be up for any interpretation. “For your love, my first caress/ your friends have came and went/ Coconut milk/ Coconut water/ You still like to tell me they’re the same/ and whom I to say.” “First Caress” could be a direct shot at a former lover, or a bunch of crap written in a journal that sounded good together… in all honesty it doesn’t matter, the end destination is a great ride.

Which is kinda (kinda isn’t a word, I know… but stay with me here) the point. Great rock ‘n’ roll can be open to interpretation; meaning everything to the writer and something completely different and equally important to the listener.  Yet, somehow these two places have common ground, and when I find Spoon to be at their greatest is when these diverging points mix seamlessly. The deeper meaning is secondary to the emotional reaction you have to it. Fuck the definitions and labels… how does it make you feel?

Now, if you are looking to pick this up on vinyl, then you have boat loads of choices… including a lucky lottery version. You can pre-order clear, purple and red. You can special order a pink copy from Urban Outfitters (1000 available). There is the regular black at your local record store….OR…

IMG_20170331_190759515

If you did a pre-order from their label Matador, you may be one of the lucky !!!TWO!!!! to have received golden ticket green vinyl edition. One is being sold in the UK and the other in North America.

spoon green

I’d love to tell ya I’ve heard them all, but that just isn’t so. The pink Urban Outfitters is spinning on the turntable sounding like a mix between Duran Duran and a Texan version of Elton John (seriously… “I Ain’t The One” is just about as heartbreaking as “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word”). Which is to say, it sounds fantastic and I’m assuming the others do too… but you know… you’ll have to buy it to find out.

Advertisements

The Age Of Expiration or Brandon Flowers – The Desired Effect

flowersde

Brandon Flowers best asset has always been his ability to convey emotion with even the most basic of lyrical content. Look at the Killers “Andy, You’re A Star” which soars like an epic even if the words are no more than jocular reminiscence.  So now you have Flowers second solo outing which he has referred to as “what the Killers second record should have sounded like” and expectations begin to run high. BUT – that has always been what Flowers does, he shoots from the hip and sometimes he hits the mark and sometimes… well, not so much.

The Desired Effect comes off as being influenced by the biggest stadium rockers of the 80’s. “Dreams Come True” points towards Born In The USA Springsteen and it is followed by “Can’t Deny My Love” which is reminiscent of Security era Peter Gabriel. However both are bogged down with lyrical metaphors that drip of modern country music formula.

Things pick up by “I Can Change” which runs off a sample of Bronski Beat’s “Small Town Boy”, but I’m unsure if the rise in my attention was really due to Flowers song or his chosen sample. There are moments of playfulness (“Still Want You”), tenderness (“Between Me and You”) and renewed love (“Untangled Love”) but again the images seem to conjure little more than a closing sequence of Friday Night Lights mixed with a soundtrack of “the best songs you didn’t hear in the 80’s.”

The Desired Effect has the unfortunate problem of being bogged down in the sounds of a time long past without a twist of something new. It’s a perfectly pleasant listen but it also comes with a quick expiration date.

Back Again… for the First Time! Bruce Springsteen – Born In The USA

bruce

I lived through it the first time, and it’s taken thirty years for it to stop being a bad soundtrack to everything 1984 and 1985. Maybe you had to be there, but Born In The USA was everywhere. Seven hit singles will do that. People who wouldn’t give Bruce the time of day were claiming to be his biggest fan and scrambling to buy tickets as he rolled into town in the summer of ’85. The local news networks went nuts when they thought it would rain on him… which you know it didn’t if you read my George Thorogood post from a couple days back.

In fact, this may have been the first honest to goodness ‘backlash’ record of my teens. An artist you really like puts out something so big, you get sick of it without ever having to buy the record. Sure there were other big records out in the 80’s, but I wasn’t into Michael Jackson or Lionel Richie or… well, a whole lot of the music that was everywhere on every station no matter where you listened.

So it is that thirty years later I’m listening to Born In The USA for the first time, on a turntable, with two speakers, and it sounds great. It sounds like I should have listened to it thirty years ago on a different turntable with a crappy set of speakers, or a cassette that would get worn down.

What strikes me as odd is that it was this big. That people missed the messages of broken dreams and desolation strewn throughout the record. That amongst the repeated chorus of so-called sing along tunes that seemed oh so patriotic were messages of just how screwed up everything was. I’m not sure how anyone could have missed it; all his previous works had these types of stories and people. Still, Born In The USA was for many people where Bruce (the Boss) Springsteen ended. I never stopped being a fan, but I didn’t follow him into those personal albums that followed. Stories of marriage and divorce didn’t really interest me in my early twenties, and the music reflected the change in direction with the E-Street Band no longer in the picture.

In fact by the 90’s, no one even talked about Bruce anymore. He won Grammy Awards, his music was featured in huge films, but amongst the music geeks of the world, Bruce was merely a shadow of the past or worse, a classic rock dinosaur; an artist relegated to being a nostalgia act.

This is where a bit of revisionist history sets in. When first, The Rising (2002) and later The Seeger Sessions (2006) came out, middle aged former hipsters started to take notice again. Springsteen began touring with the E-Street Band and now a few short years later those same people who had wrote Springsteen off were scrambling for tickets and posting pictures of themselves at concerts on Instagram.

It was all very curious to me as a music fan. As Bruce started to drift back towards political commentary through epic storytelling, fans came back – myself included. It’s just that I wasn’t sure how artist denial played in. Personally, I was never embarrassed to be a fan, but there was a time twenty years ago where many people thought it just wasn’t cool to admit it.

Anyway, Record Store Day young and old hipsters alike lined up and bought the early Springsteen records on vinyl, and I bought the one Springsteen record I had avoided since its release. The guy behind the counter, at least twenty years my junior said “you’re really gonna love this,” and as it turns out, I do.