After three year hiatus, Spoon morphs into a sneaky, sexy new sound

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After going more than four years without releasing a studio album, Spoon has come back as a bit of a new band—at least where its lineup is concerned.

After spending most of its two-decade history as a four-piece, the group now has a fifth member in Alex Fischel, who is especially making a major impact on Spoon as a live band. That’s what bassist Rob
Pope is seeing as the group begins touring behind its newly released album, They Want My Soul.

“He (Fischel) is playing a lot of guitar on the old songs,” Pope says, noting this allows singer/guitarist Britt Daniel to focus more on singing and entertaining the audience. “And then Alex, who is the new guy, he’s a hell of a keyboard player, too. So that’s been the biggest live switch-up. That’s been really fun because there are parts in old songs that were never there before that we didn’t have enough hands on stage to do them (live). Now we can.”

Fischel’s arrival in Spoon is a direct result of the hiatus the group began in 2011 when touring wrapped up behind the 2010 album, Transference.

Soon after putting Spoon on hold, Daniel teamed up with Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade to form a side band, Divine Fits. That group released a critically acclaimed album, A Thing Called Divine Fits, in 2012. The keyboardist in Divine Fits was Fischel, and Daniel was so impressed with Fischel’s contributions, he recruited him to join Spoon when the group reconvened earlier this year.

Daniel wasn’t the only member of Spoon who didn’t exactly disappear during what turned out to be nearly a three-year hiatus.

By the end of 2013, though, Spoon was once again calling and the band started writing and getting plans squared away to record the new album.

Initially, the band planned to record the entire album with Joe Chiccarelli (The Strokes, Jason Mraz, My Morning Jacket) and have Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips) mix the record. But that plan didn’t hold.

“We got about half way through (with Chiccarelli). We had about half of the songs done,” Pope says. “And we started mixing with Dave, and we got along with Dave so well. Dave (asked) us about tracking with him, and we couldn’t pass that up. We kind of parted ways with Joe, not on bad terms whatsoever, but just we wanted to keep moving with the record. So we decided to track the last half with Dave, which was a blast.”

The music that emerged on They Want My Soul is frequently edgier and a bit more aggressive than Spoon’s previous seven albums, whose taut and economical music has earned the group considerable popularity and recognition as one of alternative rock’s leading bands.

This is apparent as big drum beats introduce the opening track, “Rent I Pay,” a swaggering, hard-hitting tune.  “Rainy Taxi” is a sneaky rocker, whose intensity grows as the song unfolds. The chunky
hook-filled “Do You” and the chunky title track also add grit to the album. Meanwhile, more textured tunes like the electronic leaning “Inside Out” and the space age-sounding “Outlier,” balance out the
album nicely.

This was exactly the kind of album the band had in mind, Pope says.

“The last record (Transference), it was a cool record, but it was more of like a sit in the corner with headphones record,” he says. “And we were looking for something you could turn up on your car
stereo this time around.”

Spoon, Marquee Theatre, 730 N. Mill Avenue, Tempe, luckymanonline.com, 6:30 p.m., $28

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