Album Review: Spoon – Lucifer on the Sofa

Album cover for Spoon’s Lucifer on the Sofa

The Breakdown

Lucifer on the Sofa is a blistering, thumping, rocking album that Spoon lovers will adore and Spoon newbies will too. If you like your rock with less Clapton and more Daniel then this is the album for you.
Matador Records 9.0

Austin, Texas rock’n’rollers Spoon have released their 10th album – Lucifer on the Sofa – on Matador Records and it’s a blistering, thumping, rocking album that Spoon lovers will adore and those new to Spoon will too. It’s the first set of songs in over a decade that the band have recorded in Austin and was written and recorded over the last two years – both in and out of lockdown.

It was co-produced by the band and Mark Rankin (Adele, Queens of the Stone Age) and features contributions from Dave Fridmann and Justin Raisen. The album manages to capture the visceral intensity of a band ripping it up in a sweaty room and in perfect synchronicity as they do it. Spoon albums often feel like they’ve captured some of the songs in a single take and that is certainly the case with Lucifer on the Sofa. According to frontman Britt Daniel, “It’s the sound of classic rock as written by a guy who never did get Eric Clapton.”

Whilst Spoon’s last album – 2017’s Hot Thoughts – was a delicious detour into drum machines, synths, and a slightly more ethereal sound,  Lucifer on the Sofa lands right back in the centre of the stripped-down version of Spoon; the sound of a rock band making ‘real’ music. Daniel said:

I liked where we’d gone on Hot Thoughts – it had a specific style and it covered new ground for us – but we kept noticing on the road that the live versions of the songs were beating the album versions, and it got us thinking: The best rock music is not about dialing in the right patches and triggering samples. It’s about what happens in a room.

The band relocated back to Austin in 2019 and were able to use drummer Jim Eno’s ‘Public Hi-Fi’ studio in Austin, which allowed the band the luxury of recording at whatever pace they liked in a city where creativity and difference mix and collide. Says Daniel:

We wanted to make a record where we could experience and draw from a scene, where Alex and I could write all day, then go out and see Dale Watson at the Continental, then come back home and write some more.

The band’s approach to recording Lucifer on the Sofa was a bit ‘Beatles – Get Back’ – taking ideas into rehearsal and playing them over and over until they became something, and with the fewest instruments they could. That stripped down vibe is very apparent throughout.

Spoon are masters of taking the simplest of elements and smashing them together to create something special. No fuss, no flair, just straight on rock’n’roll loveliness, served up by a band who just want to make a sound that moves them and, they hope, might move you too. 

Halfway through the recording process, the pandemic hit and although the studio had to close,  Daniel continued writing. When the band reconvened in October, Daniel had a new batch of songs, and a renewed sense of momentum. That period is captured in the sound and style of the album. A band unleashed and able to leave it all out on the stage following a period of uncertainty – looking forwards not backwards. 

The album opens with a cover of the Smog classic Held and we’re straight into that classic Spoon sound – sharp riffs, tight beats and Daniel’s instantly recognisable vocals. The Hardest Cut, with its detuned guitars is a raucous number and you can feel the influence of QOTSA producer Rankin on this, all sexy rock riffs and funky rhythms that literally force you out of your seat – a bit like the Zombie dancing characters in the great video for this single. The Devil and Mister Jones has a little less fuzz and a lot more jangle, at least to start with. It also has some horns a la The Underdog.

Wild kicks off with a throbbing beat against some staccato guitar picking. It’s a song that grows and grows. A gorgeous bass line comes in and lifts the song up a notch as it continues with drive and, purpose. Some piano is layered in to take it up another notch before it goes into a fantastic, soaring instrumental break – an utter joyously, epic number.

My Babe slows the action down a tad to allow us to take a breath before it gets us going again and takes us into pure Spoon rock’n’roll awesomeness on Feels Alright with it’s searing drum and guitar combination. Then it’s into On The Radio which sounded for a moment like an unearthed Tom Petty rocker when Daniel started to sing. It’s underpinned by a piano riff which sounds like it was based on the Waterboys’ World Party.

Astral Jacket is the chill out before the encore; a lovely meditative number with acoustic guitar and organ taking the rock down a few notches for a final breather before we hear Satellite, which is an absolutely gorgeous tune. It starts with soft piano but incrementally grows in stature and scale as if the song is a metaphor for a ship blasting from earth toward the eponymous space object. There’s a part in the song where the break feels like said ship punching through earth’s atmosphere into outer space. This is the song Spoon should turn in if asked to contribute the next Bond theme.

Album closer and eponymous song Lucifer on the Sofa sounds like you are walking down an alley in Austin late at night and you hear the sound of jazz coming from an open club door. Daniel explains:

I didn’t know where that image came from but it felt right, this idea of Satan sitting with me on my couch, staring at me. But after the song was written I figured out that the Lucifer on the sofa is the worst you can become – the bitterness, or lack of motivation or desperation that keeps you down and makes you do nothing or self-indulge. So it’s a song about the battle between yourself and that character you can become, the conflict being played out through a long night walk through downtown Austin.

Lucifer on the Sofa is a great and worthy addition to the Spoon canon and, as with many of their albums, sure to grow better and better with repeated listens. If you like your rock with less Clapton and more Daniel then this is the album for you.

Get the album here.

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