To judge by this robust suite of steady-as-she goes indie, venerable Austin quintet Spoon seem happy maintaining their successful policy of ‘if it ain’t broke…’.
The online review aggregator Metacritic strikingly rates Spoon as the ‘overall top artist of the decade 2000-2009’, beating some pretty hefty contemporary rivals (including The White Stripes and Foo Fighters). They’ve never made much of a splash over here, maybe because the British charts have always been extremely well served for cute homegrown boys with guitars. But on the strength of this LP it’s possible – just about – to understand their evergreen appeal in the US.
The standout track on ‘They Want My Soul’ has to be ‘Do You’; workmanlike lyrically and unshowy of groove, this superficially drab affair is leavened by a chilling micro-tone backing vocal motif. But check out the video, where archetypally chiseled frontman Britt Daniel drives an old-school muscle car through the set of a disaster movie, and you’ll get it: as with everything Spoon do, retro tropes combine in ways that are just about fresh enough to pass muster. Only just about, mind.
Palatable, if unlikely to set anyone’s world on fire, the title track would probably sound all right at a high school pool party – but ‘I Don’t Understand’ has the unforgivably cringey whiff of psychedelia-by-numbers which marks, say, Beady Eye out as hopelessly anachronistic charlatans. America loves Spoon, the way they love Denny’s or the Republican Party. But most UK music – thank heavens – is light years ahead of this.
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In case you didn’t know, Scandinavia is cool right now. The food, the fashion, the facial hair – plus the Vikings have invaded the British Museum. All we need next is a healthy economy, a reliable public transport system and a sense of social justice, and London will be indistinguishable from Oslo. Meanwhile in Hackney, there’s yet another Northern European-inspired incursion. Or apparently so: the website claims this bar-restaurant-club draws on ‘a Nordic aesthetic’, although it’s not immediately obvious within. Oslo occupies the previously deserted old Hackney rail station and takes on a bit of a railway theme with its luggage-rack lighting, plus there are industrial stylings that give the whole place a Janet Jackson ‘Rhythm Nation’ video feel. The restaurant part is rather fancy, its food incorporating a few of the forages, pickles, jellies and marinations of New Nordic cooking. The kitchen is regularly given over to guest chefs, and you have to book – it’s always heaving. Eat in the bar and the food is more straightforward. Where once the standard snack in pubs was a toastie, sausage roll or pork pie, now it’s the slider or fried chicken. These are served alongside frankly obscene portions of chips, slathered with the likes of cured bacon fat and bacon salt, or braised oxtail, gravy and cheese. There’s a commendable range of craft beers from the vicinity, including a couple from Five Points Brewing just five minutes up the road at the Downs.Head upstairs and you’ll find a
Venue says: “Join us every Thursday night until late for Soul Soul Soul – a night of vinyl appreciation with DJs playing soul, funk, disco and more.”