Review: Jack Foley
EVERYONE'S favourite robe-wearing collective, The Polyphonic
Spree, return with a second album, having split from previous
Yet, while many of the lush melodies, and sprawling choral numbers
remain as fun as ever, the lack of anything truly fresh this time
around gives rise to the suspicion that the Spree might be running
out of steam.
The 24-strong groupies, led by former Tripping Daisy frontman,
Tim Delaughter, occasionally seem caught up in the sound of the
first album, as though simply re-treading old material might suffice.
So while current single, Hold Me Now, with its sweeping,
love-laden chorus and trumpet cavalcade, serves as an excellent
reminder of the joy of tracks such as Soldier Girl, there
are other moments which simply sound repetitive.
Delaughter's idiosyncratic vocal style remains a defining feature,
but works best when surrounded by the choral backing singers,
or the chiming melodies, and added flugel horns, than it does
when trying to sound more brooding - for the Spree certainly work
better when keeping things upbeat.
The length of certain tracks doesn't help, either. In an age
where it's more common for albums to come in at under 45 minutes
(or even 30), this is in excess of 50 and there are tracks which
seem to go on forever - recalling the heady excesses of some of
the great rock anthems of days gone by (only not as well).
Many of the Spree's tracks feel like a semi-religious mini-opus,
which listeners may quickly tire of, especially if they're checking
out the album for novelty value.
And given that each track represents a different section (from
11 to 20), they do tend to blend into one another too easily,
making this feel like a long listen.
The lyrics, too, aren't always as joyful as before, as evidenced
by the image on the album cover, of the collective walking through
the desert, possibly on a soul-searching journey.
Hence, tracks begin with lines such as 'you've got to be
strong, you've got to be 2,000 places at once, you've got to be
good' (during Two Thousand Places), and 'don't
fall in love with diamond rings or tragedy will somehow find its
way in all that you hold true' (Diamonds).
For the first time, they actually feel preachy, which tends to
get a little excruciating.
It's a shame, because there are still moments to savour in some
of the meticulously constructed melodies, and you have to admire
the ambition in producing something this different from the norm.
But given the breath of fresh air that represented the sound
of the first album, there is a feeling that maybe these guys (and
girls) have been hanging out in the desert for too long, and the
creative pool is in danger of running dry.
1. Section 1 (A Long Day Continues/We Sound Amazed)
2. Section 2 (Hold Me Now)
3. Section 3 (Diamonds/Mild Devotion to Majesty)
4. Section 4 (Two Thousand Places)
5. Section 5 (Ensure Your Reservation)
6. Section 6 (One Man Show)
7. Section 7 (Suitcase Calling)
8. Section 8 (Everything Starts at the Seam)
9. Section 9 (When the Fool Becomes a King)
10. Section 10 (Together We're Heavy)