Good Records / The Orchard, 2003
With dementedly simple tunes sung by a huge gospel choir, and lathered up by layers of psychedelic twiddling, the Polyphonic Spree's music isn't exactly half-hearted stuff. Their lyrics, the likes of "hey now it's the sun, and it makes me smile", have an unrelenting cheerfulness, something like the polar opposite of Trent Reznor. Listening to thumpingly easy tunes like "Soldier Girl", I always imagine seeing one of those karaoke displays with a ball bouncing across each line of words. A band most people would love or hate, but you'd have to be a grumpy bastard not to be even slightly stirred by choruses like "follow the day, and Reach for the Sun".
They sometimes come across like a lobotomised Flaming Lips. Main man Tim DeLaughter's nasal voice is similar to Wayne Coyne's, but more irritatingly scoopy. And their productions don't have the care and pedantry of Dave Fridmann's. With a menagerie of trumpets, flutes and violins whizzing off in random directions, it can come across as a casual mess, but In a looser mood it's just good inhibition-free fun. Not too far from some of Mercury Rev's earlier stuff, with the staring-eyed lunacy transformed into brainless fun and sunshine. To be fair, it doesn't work so well in the living room. It's probably better enjoyed slumped on the grass at a big summer festival, after a puff or two, soaking in the visual extravagance of the choir's flowing robes.
The "Exit Music" is an entirely peculiar add-on, over half an hour of ambient synth noodling, sounding vaguely like Laurie Anderson's "O Superman". As this gets stale after a couple of minutes, it can safely be turned off.
November 14, 2005