The Polyphonic Spree made their UK debut as support for The Divine Comedy at David Bowie‘s Meltdown this summer. There are 24 of them, all dressed in white robes. They pogo, they grin, they pogo some more, some of them strike triangles, and they sing. In their own words they are a 25-man and woman “choral symphonic pop band”.
Maybe I should admit that after about four songs that all sounded the same, I headed for the bar. With me exited two other reviewers. At least with the album, I thought, I won’t have to see them. Maybe I’ll hear something more in the music and understand why they seem to have been getting astonishingly good reviews. Alas, dear reader, would it were so. Most songs begin promisingly – with interesting instrumentation, especially on songs such as the debut single, Soldier Girl – but as soon as the voices come in, always in unison as if there is no alternative, my heart sinks.
There is no development, no subtlety, no feeling other than that of manic, mindless ‘joy’. Their founder, the perfectly named Tim DeLaughter (I’m assuming he wasn’t Christened that, or at least not first time round) apparently wanted to distil his affection for Disney and the Beach Boys into his pop choir.
If only there was some of the originality of The Beach Boys this might be more bearable. As it is, the only track that deviates from the formula is The Long Day, which lasts over 36 minutes. I’m sorry, I didn’t listen all the way through to see if the mindless drone turned into anything more interesting (it hadn’t at the ten-minute mark).
This album was picked out in The Times Magazine as Paul Connolly’s choice – he gives it four stars. Whatever he’s on, maybe I need some. On the other hand, maybe not.