The Hardest Cut: Ranking The Spoon Albums

On Friday, Spoon released their tenth album Lucifer On The Sofa. This comes nearly five years after their last album, 2017’s Hot Thoughts, marking the longest gap between albums for the band. But you know, pandemics, right?

Not surprisingly, Lucifer On The Sofa lands somewhere between really good and really, really good. It’s a Spoon record, so by the standards they themselves have set and fans of the band have since come to both appreciate and expect, Spoon only makes albums that are either really good or really, really good. Of the nine albums they’ve released prior to their newest one, there isn’t a clunker in the mix. They don’t have the album where they experimented with a different style or an album where they brought in a well-known producer to add a jolt to their sound. Each album has its own personality but they are all very much Spoon albums.

And Spoon albums are either really good or really, really good.

But is there one better than the rest? Yes, although it should be noted that the space between albums is microscopic, especially once we get to Girls Can Tell. And even then, in some cases, what separates the albums might even evade detection with even the best of microscopes. Because again, Spoon albums are…well, you understand at this point.

Optional musical accompaniment can be found here.

9. Telephono (1996)

When looking back at a band’s work, especially after they have a good body of work to examine, that first album typically goes one of two ways. It’s either celebrated and held up as the gold standard that everything else that follows is based on or it’s viewed as something of a trial run, a document of exploration for a young band trying to find itself. Such is the case with Spoon’s debut album, Telephono. It’s an okay record but not really anything to write home about. It’s also the only Spoon record that breaks their own rule of making really good or really, really good albums because again, it’s just okay. There’s a lot of rock music on the record and while Spoon is a rock band, they’re not just a rock band, something they’d prove as the years would go on. Only dishing out soft/loud rock tunes is selling themselves short. But hey, you need to start somewhere.

8. Hot Thoughts (2017)

Hot Thoughts is interesting. If Telephono is one Spoon extreme, Hot Thoughts might be the other, and somewhere in between is where true Spoon lives. Hot Thoughts is a more atmospheric album, driven by sounds and textures and less by a steady backbeat than other Spoon records. That’s cool. Hot Thoughts is cool. But it’s also not the most memorable album of theirs and perhaps with Lucifer On The Sofa kicking the doors open once again, history will be increasingly kind to Hot Thoughts and the shift in style it underwent and introduced.

7. A Series of Sneaks (1998)

So A Series of Sneaks is also an interesting album but in a different way than Hot ThoughtsA Series of Sneaks is worth talking about because of how it shows a band coming into its own and trying to find its footing. You can hear them responding to lessons they learned from Telephono and realizing that they aren’t the Pixies or any cookie-cutter version of the Pixies that were scattered across the landscape in the late 90s. They were Spoon and Spoon was destined to be different. A Series of Sneaks hints at that difference and eschews the big riffs in favor of a touch more finesse and nuance, two things that would come to be pillars of the Spoon ethos.

6. Girls Can Tell (2001)

Spoon became Spoon on their third album, Girls Can Tell. They were past the headaches and frustrations that came with signing with a major label, something that had cast a pretty big dark cloud over the release of A Series of Sneaks. Part of the healing came in the form of the Love Ways EP, where the band did some good old fashion airing of grievances, but then they got back to business with Girls Can Tell. There’s rock, but there are grooves and Spoon is a groove rock titan of industry. They weren’t a finished product by any means but there’s a reason why Girls Can Tell is seen as the album that kicked off the Spoon Dynasty.

5. Transference (2010)

With Transference, Spoon seemed to be pumping the breaks a bit. It comes after two all-time really, really good albums (Gimme Fiction and Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga) but instead of coming off as a continuation of the big-time, good-fun having rock music that those two albums gave us, Transference takes a beat, takes things down a notch. Fifteen years into their career and coming off two home runs, hindsight gives Transference more love than it got initially mainly because you can appreciate the situation and context in which it was written and recorded. The band wanted to hunker down as a unit and see what would come out. What did was an album that is more really good than really, really good. Let’s not act like that’s a bad thing, eh.

4. They Want My Soul (2014)

So with Transference, they had some me time but with They Want My Soul they got back to it. And as if there were any question about this, the band made it pretty clear what their intentions were with the record when it begins with the thumping beat of “Rent I Pay,” a true ‘everyone shut up and listen’ song. They Want My Soul was definitely not intended to be a comeback album but it was a renewed declaration of intentions album and positions itself wonderfully in contrast to Transference. They Want My Soul is full of life and rhythm and groove-backed melodies that can sometimes have a cool classic rock feel to them. Again, not a comeback album but perhaps we can call it a “welcome back” album.

3. Kill the Moonlight (2002)

Since coming together in 1993, there have been two constants in Spoon’s lineup, singer/guitarist Britt Daniel and drummer/percussionist Jim Eno. Kill the Moonlight is an Eno record. It’s full of big beats, fun percussion, and driven by the force of his playing. One of the things that have always stuck out about Spoon were the drums and that’s something that really became apparent on their excellent fourth album. But it’s not as if it’s a smooth, grooving album and nothing else. There are still indie rock bones scattered about, especially with a song like “Jonathan Fisk” that doesn’t ease up until the lights go out.

2. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007)

Spoon titling their most mainstream and accessible album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is fantastic. It’s also emblematic of their confidence level at the time. They knew they could put a goofy AF title on their album because they knew it was a dynamic album. And man, it is. It’s probably their most popular album and for good reason, seeing as how it features some of their best-known songs. But Spoon didn’t sell their soul for mainstream popularity. They brought the mainstream to them. Because of course, they did. That’s so Spoon.

1. Gimme Fiction (2005)

One head of the two-headed monster in the band’s discography is their monster fifth album. For all intents and purposes, there is interchangeability to Gimme Fiction and Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. Both are so good and so inviting to relisten to over and over again. But Gimme Fiction is all things Spoon on one record and if Spoon is defined by their consistency, Gimme Fiction is easily their most consistent album. There are no dips or bumps on it. Just one great song after another. They start getting closer to the pop that would be such a big part of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga but they don’t go all in, at least not yet. They still keep you off-balance and continue to prompt you to keep guessing what’s coming next. And you can guess all you want but you’re likely not to get it, whatever “it” is. Spoon might be consistent but that does in no way mean that they are predictable.

Categories: Music

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2 replies

  1. Umm… There’s a new #1…

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