American band Spoon have been at it since 1993, and Lucifer on the Sofa is the band’s tenth album following 2017’s Hot Thoughts. In the five year gap between albums many of the band’s albums were re-issued on vinyl under the campaign “Stay on Cue”, and there were new releases of sorts: a “best of” album Everything Hits At Once (2019), a fan-curated compilation for Record Store Day 2020 All the Weird Kids Up Front (Mas Rolas Chidas), and some digital only singles, including the live Tom Petty covers “Breakdown”/”A Face In The Crowd”.
Spoon fans (Spoonerisms? Weird Kids? Underdogs?) have still been chomping at the bit; the wait in between new studio albums was their longest to date, and their last, Hot Thoughts, seemed to be building to greater recognition for the band. We can reasonably blame Covid-19 for the delay; recording sessions began in late 2019, but had to be postponed in March 2020 because of the pandemic.
Everything Hits At Once included a new song, “No Bullets Spent”, co-produced by Mark Rankin (whose previous production credits also include Queens of the Stone Age and Adele). Rankin produced eight out of the ten tracks here, with Dave Fridmann and songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Justin Raisen producing “On The Radio” and “Feels Alright” respectively. The album was recorded at three different studios, with a variety of cast and crew mixing the tracks – drummer Jim Eno (three tracks), Rankin (two tracks), Tcad Blake (two tracks) and Fridmann, Mike McCarthy and Andrew Scheps mixing one each.
Apparently at least 30 songs were either written or recorded for the album. Of the released tracks, four were solely written by leader Britt Daniel and five were co-written with him. With such a wealth of new songs, it’s perhaps surprising that the album leads off with a Smog cover, “Held”, written by Bill Callahan, a song which Spoon used to play live in the early 2000s. However, as Tyler Darling of Spoon podcast “I Turn My Podcast On” notes in the release day episode on Lucifer on the Sofa, the band have included a cover (plus 9 songs) on previous studio LPs, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007) and They Want My Soul (2014), so perhaps it’s a winning formula. Spoon’s version of “Held” is gritty and energetic, and although it begins with studio chatter, it seems very much a live performance with minimal gadgetry and effects. It also starts off the album with lyrical thoughts of a new beginning.
Lucifer on the Sofa is the first Spoon album to include new members Ben Trokan on bass (on at least half of the tracks – replacing Rob Pope, who had been with the band since 2006 and left to pursue other projects) and Gerardo Larios (guitar on most of the tracks, adding increased capacity for solos, and Larios also plays piano). With an additional member the band has a wider range, which was already significant taking into account the breadth of multi-instrumentalist Alex Fischel’s playing (piano, keyboards, synthesizer, guitar, Melodica, drums).
Fischel also co-wrote three tracks with Daniel; the discordant, drop D tuned guitar rock of “The Hardest Cut”, the lone wolf of “Feels Alright” (“standing here by myself/a photograph with no correction”), and the title track. Others writing with Daniel for the album are Bleachers’ Jack Antonoff (“Wild”) and Austin guitarist Andrew Cashen (“The Devil & Mister Jones”).
Daniel has said that the album is “the sound of classic rock as [mostly] written by a guy who never did get Eric Clapton”, and this can perhaps be taken to mean that Lucifer on the Sofa is indie rock at its most pure. “On The Radio” (percussion by Jennifer Marrigliano on percussion) is a spikey tribute to a life in music, as Daniel considers whether he was born to it, recalling his non-stage, legal name (“hey say how come you still play that game, John Britt?”); “Feels Alright” has determined, electric swing; “Wild” (with additional production by Gabe Wax) is a hip shuffle with a conflicted edge about modern living.
The more down tempo tracks have a distinct Spoon-like texture. “Satellite”, played live from 2014 and recorded twice before this album, is a squally update of ‘70s space-age Bowie and Reed; “My Babe” builds from the quiet desperation of the “same walls every day and night “ to the exultation of “sing[ing] my heart out and beat[ing] my chest”. The keyboard-centric “Astral Jacket” is divine and heavenly, as God walks into the room softly.
Daniel has suggested that the Lucifer on the sofa of the title track is a character he can become when not at his best, with a lack of motivation – “counting weekends/never getting dressed/speaking in third person/trying to forget”. The song evokes an atmospheric walk in lockdown, turquoise blue, “cruising up [Austin’s] Lavaca” with a squally sax blowing in (Ted Tafaro, producer Friedmann on additional keyboards and backing vocals by Caroline Rose). Satan makes a special guest appearance again for “The Devil & Mister Jones”; it’s hard not to think that Mr Jones could be Dylan’s character, revisited. As for the devil, he’s not named in the song except in the title – these days we already know who he is (he’ll be singing along in Russian, as the juju groove rains down on a fragile world).
Coming in at under 40 minutes of mostly energetic, spirited rock, Lucifer on the Sofa is skinny and determined, likely to leave the digital listener hitting repeat or an analog kid flipping the vinyl to start again. In these perilous times, repeat and enjoy as much as possible.
Lucifer on the Sofa is available on CD (variants include a Japanese version with a bonus track “Sugar Babies”), vinyl (variants include a Dinked edition (number 157) of 500, made up of cream and orange splatter vinyl with a black 1 track flexidisc 7” of “Sugar Babies”, signed 18” x 24” folded poster and foil numbered sleeve; indie retail exclusive orange opaque vinyl; Spotify Fans First Tri-Colour black, orange and cream; Amazon orange/cream vinyl; Urban Outfitters cream vinyl; Matador orange/black vinyl) and download.
“Wild” was also released on 7” single (with a B side remix).
Label: Matador Records
Release Date: 11 FEB 2022