Hey man! Be happy! Join the Polyphonic Spree!

Review by Lucy Hayes

This review, concerning one of the emerging bands of the moment, was kindly submitted to the pages of Indielondon by Lucy Hayes. Feel free to do the same, whether gigs inspire, disappoint, or simply bring out the wordsmith in you. We look forward to receiving your views....

Polyphonic Spree, Barfly, Camden, July '02

TWENTY five people enter on stage, all visions in white robes, heads swaying with Cheshire cat grins, waving arms and clapping hands, some carrying instruments to the melodic sound of Hey Jude.

My first thought was that I’d been summoned to a mass religious cult worshipping night and Coombayar my lord was gonna ring in my ears at any second.

Preconceptions aside, the spectacle of 25 people, of mixed ages, onstage in a mass jamming session, is a pretty amazing sight, combining guitar, drums, keyboard, trumpet, French horn, violins, tambourines, timpani, thermion, gong, flute, farfisa, acetone, percussion, popchords, rhythmic vocals, and choir-like singing.

It was also pretty amazing to see them all crammed onto the tiny stage upstairs at The Barfly, at The Monarch in Camden, a classic venue for launching bands - Oasis and Feeder previously performed there in 1994.

"You gotta be strong, you gotta be 2000 places at once, you gotta be good, you gotta be 2000 places at once," sings Tim Delaughter on the opening track, the ex Tripping Daisy frontman, from Dallas, Texas, echoed by the choir section, quivering spaceship sound effects and instruments blending to create a surreal and atmospheric start to the gig.

Gizmo, from The Gremlins, sounds then take over, combined with birds tweeting, whistling, French horn solos and slow-building instrumentals, leading to repetitive "ba, ba, baas" and the second psychedelic track of the night.

Each track is unique and a celebration (without sounding like an obscure American motivational conference guru). They are spiritually uplifting and cheerful, and contain anecdotes about life, such as ‘life is a wonderful slide’, ‘the trees are getting harder to climb’, ‘hey now, it’s the sun and it makes me shine’.

There are morals, too, such as ‘soon, you’ll find your own way, hope has come, you are safe’; ‘don’t fall in love with diamond rings or tragedy will somehow find it’s way in all you hold true’. These are all stated during a track, or chanted repetitively to create a catchy chorus.

But the effect is positive. Each new track is so well-received that Delaughter tries to recruit the crowd for more members: "You’re just missing the robe, you get the robe and we’re all on the same page!" he declared.

The ultimate crowd-pleaser and most recognised track is Soldier Girl, which has received a lot of coverage on XFM and Radio One. It is definitely the most indie influenced, rocky and memorable.

Delaughter has a distinctive Texan twang and melodic warble effect in his voice and sounds similar to Jonathon Donahue of Mercury Rev and Grandaddy’s Jason Lyttle – which is coincidental, as Grandaddy gave The Polyphonic Spree their first exposure as a support for them in Texas and became instant fans.

After 35 minutes, the Polyphonicers left the crowd wanting more; a truly spectacular and original performance emblazoned in their memories and a montage of new and experimental sounds fresh in their ears.

Next up were The Rapture and Finga Thing and what an act to follow; we didn’t wait to let them wow us, instead mingling in the funky bar downstairs, where Grant Nicholas, from Feeder, and Mark Lamarr were enjoying some bevvies amidst the ‘musos’ waiting to pounce on the band to sign this wondrous new act from, as Delaughter put it, ‘our little country of Texas’.