(SXSW 2017 flavoured!) Single Review: Spoon – Hot Thoughts

By on Thursday, 30th March 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

While indie stalwarts Spoon have not reached the heights of success that, say, Coldplay or The Killers, they enjoy the admiration of a devoted fan base. They are also a band from Austin, which affords them the privilege of appearing at SXSW really whenever they want, however they want. So it makes total sense that ahead of the release of their ninth album ‘Hot Thoughts’, they were able to organise a 3-day residency Tuesday to Thursday at The Main during the festival this year, culminating with the release of the LP on Matador Records on the Friday. As a further joke, the band dubbed the residency “Eno’s”, after their drummer Jim Eno. (For context: Emo’s is a former SXSW venue in town that hosts indie gigs the rest of the year.) The band further capped things off on release day, performing midday Friday at the Radio Day Stage in the convention center.

Thanks to excellent timing and a press pass, I was able to get into the Main Thursday night in Austin to see them perform. I also purchased the physical LP in person before I left the venue and considered reviewing it as a whole. However, because I’m not a Spoon super fan, I didn’t think by doing a review I’d be doing you, the readers – or Spoon for that matter – any favours. So instead, I’ll be giving my thoughts on the title track single. I ended up hearing ‘Hot Thoughts’ for the first time on a SiriusXM channel, probably Alt Nation, on an unseasonably warm February day in Washington with the windows rolled down. Had I not been prompted by the display on my car’s dashboard, I never in a million years would have guessed it was them. I mean, really. Spoon goes dance pop? With loads of cowbell, handclaps and scandalous, suggestive oohs? Ohhhh, yes.

Disappointingly, to me anyway, ‘Hot Thoughts’ isn’t representative of the rest of the album. What is the song, or the album for that matter, about? In an interview with Minnesotan public radio station The Current during the week in Austin, gangly frontman Britt Daniel was coy reticent, saying simply that perhaps the latest effort is “more sex-focused than our previous albums”. Hmm. ‘Do I Have to Talk You Into It?’, anyone? The more I thought about the song while we were in Austin, the more perfect I felt it was for the carnival of crazy that SXSW is. You’re surrounded by a ton of people from a ton of different places who you’re likely never to see again, and as mentioned by The Current’s interviewer, they’re pretty attractive people too. Daniel sings, “could be your accent mixing with mine / you got me uptight, twisting inside / hot thoughts all in my mind and all of the time”. Opposites attract, and let’s face it, the unique lilt of an accent uncommon in your daily life is just one ingredient in the recipe of falling for someone.

Being around someone unusual and in equally unusual environs can further set things up for attraction. Daniel explains the seemingly strange lyric about “your teeth shining so white / light up this side street in Shibuya tonight” was inspired by a Japanese man who commented on Daniel’s girlfriend’s pearly whites as part of a pick-up line. “I thought that was a pretty far out, maybe desperate but funny way of hitting on her”, he said to Esquire. Daniel further admitted to the men’s lifestyle magazine that following Prince’s death last year, he was spurred on to relisten to The Purple One’s back catalogue, which would reasonably account for the new album’s preoccupation with getting it on.

If I’ve learned anything about attraction in this lifetime, it’s that you can never plan for it. It hits you in the face and the stomach. It makes your knees go limp in the presence of this beguiling person. And unfortunately, it blinds you and hopefully, only temporarily. ‘Hot Thoughts’ thoughtfully chronicles the frustration of sexual tension and the inherent confusion in misinterpreting signs: “is it your motion signalling cues…you must be trouble for sure”.

The insecurity doesn’t last long. Daniel turns things around before the end, making a single word change in the chorus so it’s now focused on the object of his affection’s own hot thoughts about him. He’s so confident that he’s hooked her, he throws out the vaguely Shakepearean line “my rhyme maketh you mine”, followed by the declaration, “you know, I think all, I think all your love is enough”. Except for the down tempo bridge, the instrumentation throughout doesn’t change. However, with this mood change before the song’s conclusion, ‘Hot Thoughts’ ends not in defeat, but on a triumphant note that love has won.

Britt Daniel, dear sir, you have a bright future in writing Valentine’s Day cards. You know, if this rock music thing doesn’t work out. Wordsmithing doesn’t come easy. I salute you.

9.5/10

‘Hot Thoughts’, the ninth album from Austin band Spoon, is out now on Matador Records. I know I can’t bring you back with me to The Main, but you can get a taste of Spoon performing ‘Hot Thoughts’ earlier this month, on Jimmy Kimmel Live below.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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