Reinvention is second nature to Spoon. During its ill-fated mid-’90s stint on a major label, the Austin band favored noisy, wiry indie rock. But once the group re-emerged on an independent label in the early 2000s, its music shifted to a cleaner, more minimalist style: power-pop brimming with nervous energy, funky soul-rock, reflective mod-rock. Later still came excursions into electronic music, blues, and keyboard-dappled, early ’80s radio rock.
Not every band can pull off transformations so successfully—but, then again, the members of Spoon know that experimentation only succeeds when paired with strong songwriting. And Lucifer On The Sofa is one of the band’s most focused songwriting efforts yet: Every note feels deliberately placed and well-constructed, with crisp arrangements (the piano-sprinkled ballad “My Babe”), piercing hooks (the elastic “The Devil & Mr. Jones”) and sweeping dynamics (the melodramatic, glammy art-rock waltz “Satellite”).
This precision enables some rather impressive nuance on Lucifer On The Sofa’s moodiest songs, which also happen to be the record’s standout offerings. “Wild” has the easygoing rhythmic cadences of Primal Scream circa Screamadelica to match pointed lyrics in search of redemption (“And the world, still so wild, called to me / I’d been caught, I was lost, on my knees”), while the reflective “Astral Jacket” is a twilight lullaby with a gentle bossa nova beat and intimate vocals.
Lucifer On The Sofa’s evolution is a byproduct of time, process and geography. Co-produced with Mark Rankin (Adele, Queens of the Stone Age), the album is the group’s first studio full-length since 2017’s Hot Thoughts and the first since 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga without longtime bassist Rob Pope. Notably, Spoon started Lucifer before the pandemic and finished it during lockdown, which led the band into different creative territory. Inspired by Hot Thoughts-era live performances, Spoon demoed and planned out their new songs before recording them. “We kept discovering that we were playing the songs from the last album better on the road than they were on the record,” Daniel told NME. “The idea was to take that energy that you get from playing songs live and being on the road and hashing out the songs, using that energy first.”
And the album’s meditative vibe may have something to do with location. In recent years, frontman Britt Daniel headed back to Austin, rejoining drummer (and studio owner) Jim Eno; guitarist-keyboardist Alex Fischel also relocated. It might be too easy to credit Texas for the grimy blues-rock vibe permeating some corners of Lucifer. (Adding fuel to the fire: In the album’s bio, Daniel admits to listening to ZZ Top, and notes the record is “the sound of classic rock as written by a guy who never did get Eric Clapton.”)
On a cover of Smog’s “Held” (a song Spoon’s covered live), a grease-slicked instrumental opening segues into the reflective lines: “For the first time in my life, I let myself be held / Like a big old baby / And I surrender to your charity.” Elsewhere, Lucifer On The Sofa indulges in some fiery bar-band vibes—as on the buoyant rocker “The Hardest Cut,” which boasts gnarly guitar licks, gouging grooves, and references to “world wars in my mind.” And even if certain moments nod to Spoon’s earlier incarnations—the funk-rock strut “Feels Alright,” the insistent piano weaving through “On The Radio”—they don’t feel like a rehash of the past, but gritty reboots.
Decades into their career, Spoon resembles shapeshifters such as David Bowie more than ever. (The band even recently covered the somber Blackstar number “I Can’t Give Everything Away.”) Like Bowie, Spoon may incorporate retro flourishes, but isn’t prone to nostalgia. Even if the band’s lyrics dwell on regrets or yearn for roads not taken, its music is eternally restless—the sound of striving for the future.
For evidence, hear the album-ending title track, a standout that sounds like Roxy Music taking a midnight stroll on a dark, deserted street, with brooding saxophone and a keyboard-driven melody. The song’s lyrics, which survey the wreckage of a life and a stack of painful memories, are even more vivid: In a somber tone, Daniel asks, “What are you gonna do with your last cigarettes? All your old records, your old cassettes?” These lyrics are a gut punch for anyone who’s ever started over (or needed to turn a page), and a reminder that moving on—and moving forward—always brings collateral damage. Spoon has never shied away from acknowledging this downside. Lucifer On The Sofa is yet another example of how forward motion can often lead to exciting new directions—and great things.