hat on God’s good Earth is this? A concept BAND?
Welcome to The Polyphonic Spree. Are they a cult? Are they a band? Are they a choir? Are they taking the fucking piss? Somewhere between twenty and thirty men and women, some clutching instruments from guitars to flutes to timpani, some labelled as a ‘choir’, some young, some old, some quite possible mental, all of them wearing flowing white robes and standing in a field smiling at the sun. Welcome to The Polyphonic Spree. The many-sectioned extravagant musical outing, if you will.
On The Flaming Lips’ recent tour Wayne Coyne would claim before the last song each night that “science has proved the most exciting sound any human being can hear is another human being,” and then urge the audience to scream themselves hoarse while the band played "How Will We Know?" from Zaireeka. The Polyphonic Spree are trying to be that sound, the noise of human beings being excited and joyful in order to make other human beings feel excited and joyful.
Like Spiritualized playing "Oh Happy Day" live with a gospel choir, like Mercury Rev or The Flaming Lips tapping into Gershwin, God and The Beach Boys all at the same time, The Polyphonic Spree are aiming at spiritual uplift, at finding common ground between pop music, alternative rock and religious devotional. Pop hymns to an absent God. Pocket symphonies for grown-up kids. Look at it this way; religion and pop music were both always trying to achieve the same thing, namely synaesthesia, sublimation, the overwhelming of the senses and the subsequent loss of the ego leading to communal euphoria, release, joyous catharsis. Whether you get it in a church, in a sweaty moshpit, in the rush of heroin down your spine, standing on a mountain top, at the moment of orgasm; that sense of divine release, of no longer clutching hang-ups and neuroses to your chest as if they were you rather than just your problems, the loss of identity in a rush of something greater than yourself... That sense of the sublime is the thing that we’re all, maybe, secretly looking for.
But this is all guff. The Polyphonic Spree are a calculated and slightly sinister stab at psychedelic orchestral pop music of the type so dearly loved by critics ever since Brain Wilson went mad and put his piano in a sandpit. Tim DeLaughter from Tripping Daisy casting himself as a musical David Koresh, him and his friends dressed like Moonies, singing like Wayne Coyne with a school choir to hide his cracked larynx, piling layer upon layer of instrumentation onto everything, pianos, guitars, strings, flutes. Singing about how the sun makes you smile, how green the grass is and how cool holidays are. No song titles, just ten nameless ‘Sections’ and a painting of kids climbing trees on the cover. Yet somehow The Polyphonic Spree have managed to make a record that actually is simple, joyous, and spiritually uplifting (despite "Section 10", 30+ minutes of aimless, pointless burbling and whirring sounds which finish the album).
The record The Flaming Lips should have made instead of Yoshimi? Maybe. Chalk this one down as a successful experiment and then enjoy it.
Reviewed by: Nick Southall
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01