The titular baddie of the band's fresh but familiar 10th studio album isn't some external bully — it's the manifestation of their own existential dread.
| Credit: Oliver Halfin

Spoon frontman Britt Daniel has faced down his fair share of nasty characters over the band's 29-year career. His songs are frequently littered with bullies: Kill the Moonlight's Jonathan Fisk, who "speaks with his fists"; the easily bribed "strapped-up soldiers" of Gimme Fiction's "I Summon You"; and the card sharks, street preachers, and other bad actors who literally want to steal his life force on the title track of They Want My Soul. The indie quintet's 10th studio album ratchets up the creep factor, pitting them against the ultimate soul sucker: Lucifer himself. (More on him in a bit.)

After touring extensively to promote 2017's synth-laced, beat-focused Hot Thoughts, Daniel and Co. set out to capture Spoon's live-show energy. The group began recording in Austin in late 2019, until COVID-19 crashed the party the following March, forcing them to hit pause and lock down with the rest of us. But Daniel kept on writing. The result is Lucifer on the Sofa, Spoon's loosest, liveliest album since 2010's unruly low-fi gem Transference, which combines that LP's spontaneous spirit with the meticulous production and sharp melodic hooks of their most memorable work.

Studio chatter and other happy accidents color the album's opener, a road-tested cover of Smog's "Held" that feels both tossed-off and tight as a drum. While it may not be as definitive as their other classic covers "Me and the Bean" and "Don't You Evah," it certainly works as a mission statement: Lucifer is the unbeatable sound of the right musicians playing together in the right room, and their collective confidence shines through on every track. 

The strongest entries feel fresh yet familiar. "The Hardest Cut" strips the Texas-rock stylings of ZZ Top down to the bone, as Daniel's vocals snake around a bluesy, boot-tapping drop-D guitar riff. The strutting, anthemic "Wild" is one of the most joyful tracks in their entire catalog, thanks in large part to Jim Eno's propulsive percussion and Daniel's lyrics, which celebrate the freedom to explore an untamed, treasure-filled world. 

No Spoon album is complete without a few love songs, and Daniel finds a way to navigate well-trodden territory. "My Babe" is a slow-burn ode to monogamy that depicts him and his partner in a state of domestic ennui ("Training our focus on late-night TV, cheap wine"), but it still inspires sweeping grand gestures with a chorus that's sweet but not too sticky. "Satellite" begins with a spacey piano twinkling as Daniel pledges to orbit around the object of his affection, before the rhythm section brings him down to Earth with a 12/8 groove that recalls Elvin Bishop's "Fooled Around and Fell in Love." 

Which brings us back to Lucifer. Daniel describes the title track's villain not so much as the Prince of Darkness as an unwanted couch surfer: "Cashed out in the front room, ashes stained his lips/Lucifer on the sofa, staring at you." The anxious stream of consciousness that follows makes it clear that Daniel is narrating from that 2020 Austin lockdown, walking through once-busy streets as bleary saxophones echo like car horns in the eerily quiet night. This time, the titular demon isn't some external bully to defeat through the power of rock & roll — it's the manifestation of Daniel's own existential dread. The chorus details abandoned artifacts of a past life with a past love, as Daniel pleads, "What am I gonna do with your last cigarette?/All your old records, all your old cassettes?" He could just as easily be describing a post-band apocalypse, in which the pandemic has irreversibly destroyed the pursuit of recording and performing music, and the unsold records and cassettes keep piling up. 

But Spoon needn't worry. Lucifer on the Sofa is a solid reminder that even the worst of times deserve a great soundtrack, and that music — like the band itself — will never go out of style. Grade: A-

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