Review by: Dinar Khayrutdinov
Album assigned by: Ed Luo
This is grand, epic and BIG. Together we’re heavy indeed, if by ‘heavy’ you mean producing symphonic-sounding universalist anthems. But let’s look at the band behind the album: The Polyphonic Spree is a group of about 20 constantly rotating musicians from Dallas led by a man called Tim DeLaughter (which actually rhymes with ‘daughter’ and not ‘laughter’, for your information), who is pretty much the only constant member. Tim’s idea is basically making catchy indie pop BUT with a major difference – contrary to the 00s musical fashion and giving absolutely zero fucks about being ‘cool’ and ‘trendy’, he drenches his songs in lush orchestral arrangements and gives them bombastic gospel-like choir treatment.
The results (at least on this album, which is their only record I’ve heard so far) are predictably GRAND. The messages of the album doubly so: Love thy neighbor! Peoples of the world unite in one sweeping motion! Be happy, today is the best day of your life! Let’s sing together for love and peace! Stand up, throw your hands in the air, sing your throat out and be free! “You gotta be strong, you gotta be two thousand places at once”, “and love will shine today”! These guys are practically making 1967 happen again, at least within the limits of this particular record. And with some good memorable melodies, nice harmonies and very professional singing, too! Think classic-era Electric Light Orchestra, which apparently was a major influence. Lush arrangements and ecstatic choirs suddenly make sense.
It goes without saying that your perception of this music highly depends on whether you can enjoy this sort of thing non-ironically or the cynicism of our times has gotten you for good. And no, don’t fall under the impression that the whole record is naively over-optimistic either – lyrically this album acknowledges the tough and dire affair that is life, and it does have its share of melancholic moments as well (One Man Show, to name one). The record also features a rock-opera-like mini-suite called When The Fool Becomes a King, which also adds to some slight diversity of mood. However, in the end the purpose of EVERY SINGLE song here is to make you happier and more capable of dealing with the harshness of life. This is a statement of optimism, a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ album, the musical equivalent of a helping hand lent to those in need of cheering up.
Which is the reason I’m actually refusing to rate this album objectively. It might not have the best songs or the best arrangements; maybe it isn’t even good by normal rock and pop standards. Not to mention that a lot of people will probably hate this record for being so at odds with the times, full of almost saccharine sunshine. BUT I happen to have really enjoyed this album, and I want to praise The Polyphonic Spree for their sheer audacity and boldness, for not being afraid of sincerely trying to make people love their lives a bit more. In 2004 this takes balls.