Hyphens (at least one) are quite necessary when the domain name you want is taken. My site of 4 years has one hyphen and has always done well. I'm sure G realizes the reason "some" people went to a hyphen, but I do agree that when you push the threshold over perphas X number of hyphens it may raise a spam flag.
I really don't think people searching care a hoot about your domain name as long as they find what they want on you site. Think about it - someone uses G to search and a hypenated domain comes up first - they just click the link and pay no attention to the domain name. Hopefully, you have what they want and then they'll just bookmark your site.
Original content that is useful is all searchers care about - perhaps not webmasters, but the majority of the internet is not surfed by domain owners.