I always kind of wondered why the music press could never mention the Polyphonic Spree without making some inane reference to them as a ‘cult’ or a ‘religious group’ or some half-clever remark like that. I mean, okay, they wear choir robes, but I associate that more with being a choir than a cult. I suppose that it is a little cult like the way that Tim DeLaughter leads his flock of suspiciously enthusiastic and ethnically uniform followers in marathon repetitive hymns to the sun. But up until this latest CD, the cult aspect was always eclipsed by the sheer pop thrill of the songwriting and performance.
Now however, any attempt to deny whether or not the Spree plays up the cult angle is more than futile, as the lyrics to ‘Together We”re Heavy’ seem to buy into the lazy press blurbs that pegged them as ‘cult novelty act.’ Not that this matters though, because ‘Together We”re Heavy’ is a worthy successor to the band”s heretofore seemingly insurmountable ‘The Beginning Stages of…’
Tim DeLaughter has said that he considered the first album just a ‘demo’ that could be used to give venues a chance to hear what the group was capable of. While this seemed a laughable statement given the epic scope and seemingly adequate production values of ‘The Beginning Stages,’ the opening track of ‘Together We”re Heavy’ makes clear that given the resources, the Spree are capable of even greater feats of pop majesty.
‘A Long Day Continues/We Sound Amazed’ breaks the tension with an almost abrasive blast of white symphonic noise giving way to a surprisingly unaccompanied vocal melody from DeLaughter. However, after an expansive decompression, the song returns to an altered version of the ‘it”s the sun’ motif that dominated the first album. The motif is reprised yet again at the closing of ‘Together We”re Heavy,’ leading to a satisfying sense of continuity between this and the ‘Beginning Stages’ album.
The first single, ‘Hold Me Now’ is perhaps The Polyphonic Spree at their most accessible. No extended instrumental ambiance gets in the way of the hook and a rousing marching beat propels the song along. It still retains the Spree”s trademark repetitive chorus and insuppressible glee, but packs it into a concise little radio friendly unit.
The greatest strength of the album perhaps is the sequencing and flow. All ten tracks have an involving sense of narrative arc, culminating in the cheerfully apocalyptic ending of the epic ‘When A Fool Becomes a King.’ Using all the tricks that a band with upwards of 28 members could have up its 56 sleeves, the choir creates the sound of melodic bombs bursting while DeLaughter barks orders through a megaphone and the orchestra speeds out of control.
There”s a moment when you listen to the Polyphonic Spree closely for the first time that you think, ‘Why doesn”t every band have 28 singers?’ However, this moment of gimmicky thrill cannot sustain a listener”s interest in a band. Luckily, The Polyphonic Spree is much more than a gimmick or novelty band, and they back up their massive stature with inspired songwriting and great melodies that will outlive any detractors.