Hot Thoughts, Spoon’s 9th album, is the bravest, most sonically inventive work of their career, though keep in mind, Britt Daniel has already overseen a number of other reincarnations. With all due respect to earlier efforts that have made the band both critically acclaimed and a commercial contender, preconceptions about Spoon are about to be obliterated. That’s not to say Hot Thoughts doesn’t have a requisite supply of infectious earworms — WE DIDN'T SAY THIS WAS A DIFFERENT BAND (though this is the first Spoon album with no acoustic guitar) — but there’s a lyrical bent that’s as carnal as it’s crafty, and a newfound sense of sonic exploration that results in the genre-smasher Spoon have flirted with in the past but not fully consummated.

The ten songs on Hot Thoughts run the gamut from the kaleidoscopic opening title track (as tone-setting as say, “Dirty Mind” for the album it commences) through the gargantuan stomp of “Do I Have To Talk You Into It” and ubiquitous wiry hooks of “Can I Sit Next To You" to the bittersweetness of “I Ain’t The One” and the deadpan swing of “Tear It Down” — less the telling of an apocalyptic vision and more what Daniel describes as a song about “empathy for strangers.”

Ample recognition should be tossed in the direction of Dave Fridmann, whose wizard-level ingenuity has brought a diabolical sheen to the band’s swagger (there may be many great ways to occupy one’s time in Cassadaga, New York, but we do know that holing up at Fridmann’s studio to make a masterpiece is one of them).

Without question, the prior works of Daniel, drummer Jim Eno, bassist Rob Pope and no-longer-a-secret weapon Alex Fischel have scaled some lofty heights (from 1996 debut LP Telephono, 1998’s A Series Of Sneaks, 2001’s Girls Can Tell, 2002’s Kill The Moonlight, 2005’s recently reissued in deluxe 10th anniversary grandeur Gimme Fiction, through the trifecta of U.S. Top 10 albums that was Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007), Transference (2010) and They Want My Soul (2014), you’re talking about a winning streak that’s nothing short of Mayweather-esque), but Hot Thoughts is a daring, futuristic chapter in the Spoon story. Daniel’s spot in the pantheon of rock's genius songwriters was established long ago—but with the crackling, incandescent, multi-dimensional backdrop conjured on Hot Thoughts, the lines between accessible and experimental become non-factors for once and all. It’s pop as high art, delivered with total confidence and focus.

In December 2016, a man and his rescue dog drove out to Joshua Tree in the Southern California Desert.

Armed with a guitar and “a shitty 10-year-old laptop,” this mohawked troubadour spent two weeks screaming into a microphone at two in the morning and bleeding all over the guitar strings in between walking his dog under the cool arid night sky and barely sleeping at the “weird house” he rented.

That man was Mondo Cozmo (the dog just goes by Cozmo, and he may have some wolf and raccoon in his DNA). They left the desert with the artist’s 2017 full-length debut, Plastic Soul [Republic Records], in tow.

Let’s rewind to what got our hero to this point…

“When ‘Shine’ was about to hit #1 on AAA radio, the label called me and said, ‘Can you turn in a full-length album?’,” he recalls. “I was like, ‘Awesome, yes!’ They asked, ‘Can you do it in two weeks?’ I said, ‘Fuck you’,” he laughs.

Everything changed for Mondo Cozmo in 2016. Born in Philadelphia and now based in East Los Angeles, he quit his two landscaping jobs, raised a big middle finger to all opposition, and began releasing songs that could’ve been cut under the influence of a “Champagne Supernova” inside a Seattle warehouse if this were the nineties…but it’s not. A disciple of Beck, Eddie Vedder, and Keith Richards, the song “Shine” introduced this tattooed underground pop outlier to audiences at large.

Not only did “Shine” break at multiple radio formats, but it racked up millions of Spotify streams with NPR hailing it among “Songs Public Radio Can’t Stop Playing in 2016.” He shot a heart-wrenching video for “Hold On To Me” with Anna Faris at a senior citizens home (Faris’s husband Chris Pratt told him not to sign a deal). He sold out the Troubadour in Los Angeles in under five days followed by sell outs in New York and Philadelphia.In fact, every headlining show he has played he has sold out. He lit up 10 shows at SXSW 2017—“Whatever asshole booked those like that was trying to kill me.” He joined Bastille on their arena tour—“It’s unbelievable. I wouldn’t even be able to afford tickets to this fucking thing if I wasn’t playing.” He made his late-night television debut on Jimmy Kimmel LIVE! backed by a full choir, and he landed acclaim from Entertainment Weekly, Consequence of Sound, Clash, The Line Of Best Bit, and more.

However, Mondo Cozmo remains Mondo Cozmo. Punk as fuck to the core, he did things like give away three hundred shirts for free one night because the merch company fucked up and the name was spelled wrong. He distributed a demo version of the album’s title track “Plastic Soul” by encouraging fans on Instagram to email his lawyer at Mondocozmo666@gmail.com. He started a hotline 1-866-MONDO-COZMO at which Kimmel even left a message.

He did it all by deconstructing everything you know and reconstructing it with a rawness the world hasn’t felt since Pearl Jam’s Vs. or Springsteen’s Born To Run. That’s Plastic Soul.

“I went into the studio after releasing a couple of singles,” he goes on. “I had laser focus. I gauged what people were reacting to. I didn’t want to just make a record and hope it went well. I knew exactly what I was going to make. That’s how it came together in two weeks. Those first songs were written when I was in a dark place. There’s always been a little bit of hope though—constantly looking into the future that things will be different.”

About the new songs, he reveals:

“Automatic”: “It’s a big fucking tune. I think it’s going to take over the world. It was all stream-of-consciousness.”

“River”: “It’s almost like a Beck falsetto moment. There’s no guitar just weird organ and dumb drum beats.”

“Come With Me”: “It’s probably my favorite vocal pass.”

Plastic Soul is Mondo Cozmo.

It’s painful. It’s pissed-off. It’s poetic. It’s passionate. It’s powerful.

“I hope people feel alive when they hear the record,” he leaves off. “That’s it. Ultimately, I don’t know where this thing is going, but it’s going to Virginia tonight…”

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