Joshua B. (littleborge) from ATHENS, GA Reviewed on 7/29/2014...
i like this cd quite a bit. it's like the source family meets UP WITH PEOPLE! when you absolutely need to hear upbeat choral indie pop with a touch of wistfulness then you should come here first instead of hitting up that imitation choral indie pop band that pretends to know how to ooze positivity and general vibiness. this has a lot more going on than the first album. more horns, more hooks, more time….just more more. haven't watched the dvd but i imagine they keep it pretty much in the same wheelhouse. don't get this album if your thing is swedish black metal and/or straight outta compton og gangsta rap. you will be sorely disappointed.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Sing, Sing a Song
Glen Engel Cox | Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | 12/22/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Whatever happened to the concept album? It seemed in the 70s and 80s that you couldn't escape them, that every band with any pretension of artistry released one, if not more, and this fueled the creation and increasing importance of Album Oriented Rock radio, which often featured special shows that would play these discs in their entirety (usually carefully preceded and followed by enough silence that home tapers could be sure of getting a clean copy in an early example of file sharing). Rock operas like the Who's Tommy and Pink Floyd's The Wall shared the time with thematically connected collections like Alan Parson's I, Robot. Songs ranged out of the perfect pop three-minute mark to sometimes covering entire sides of LPs, like Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick, or would merge seamlessly from one track to the next such as Joe Jackson's Blaze of Glory. Such grandiosity seemed to go the way of the dodo in the 90s, as grunge and indie rock strove to return to rock's roots in the 1950s, as if Bill Haley and Jerry Lee Lewis were fighting back against Sgt. Pepper. A few bands, now labeled "art rock" or progressive, continued to hold the candle, but radio ditched them for the new kids on the block.
Proving that things always go in cycles, The Polyphonic Spree act like they've been handed Sgt. Pepper's baton, sounding like nothing more than the second coming of that era-Beatles combined with the song structures of Yes or early Genesis and a larger band than Funkadelic at its most extreme. Their first album, The Beginning Stages of..., was extremely uneven: a series of demos that proved the concept of 20-plus members creating music in a communal style was viable and not a disaster. Released basically unedited and unproduced, it shows glimpses of possibilities, the best moments being in the song "Night and Day" that fully harkened back to concept albums of the past with its enigimatic story and alternating passages of whisper-quiet sweet melodies and bombastic fanfares. Based on that album, word-of-mouth and some high-profile festival appearances (including a personal invite from David Bowie, himself not a stranger to outre concepts, for an early English gig), the Polyphonic Spree landed a contract with a larger label and enough money and time to furnish the second album with a production to match their vision.
Together We're Heavy actually continues the themes brought forward in the first album. In fact, the first song is titled "Section 11 (We Sound Amazed)," indicating that the ten songs of The Beginning Stages of... were sections one through ten. The lyrics are optimistic to an Candide-like extreme, celebrations of life and its possibilities. They worship growth, nature, the sun, and dreams. The sounds match this positivism with bright horn sections, tinkling keyboards, flowing harp sections and ethereal flute intersections.
The group itself is the brainchild of one man, Tim DeLaughter, a veteran of the more usual rock four-piece, a band called Tripping Daisy. In 1999, his friend and band guitarist Wes Berggren died to a drug overdose, which seemed to have initiated a road to Damascus conversion for DeLaughter, who emerged next on a musical stage with his three former bandmates, his wife, and nine other friends, calling themselves The Polyphonic Spree. Since then, they've added another ten members, made robes their on-stage garment (initially white with individual color fringes, now with one piece solid colors, so that on stage they look like a living, moving rainbow), and become one of the most talked about new acts of the 21st century. The robes and celebratory aspect of their music have led to some naïve questions about whether they constitute a cult, met with laughter by DeLaughter, who instead compares the group and their energetic stage show to a theatrical event (think Godspell or Hair).
While the songs on Together We're Heavy can be listened to individually (in fact, my first experience with it was a single on a sampler disc in Paste magazine), listening to all ten straight will take you back twenty or thirty years. DeLaughter's slightly whiny lead vocals resemble Roger Waters, even if his lyrics are the antithesis of Waters' angst, despair and loathing, while the music harkens to Genesis' style right after Peter Gabriel's departure. The repetition of bits and pieces owes as much to 70s progressive rock as it does to the sampling and mixing of the 90s, and, like their stage show, infuses the listener with a silly grin on their face. I'm fondest of the way that the Spree incorporates a multitude of voices in a choir-like backing for DeLaughter (something prefigured in, for example, the kids choir of "Another Brick in the Wall part 2").
I like this much more than I ever would have expected, even though I consider my fondness for art rock predisposes me to it. I guess I thought I had grown out of that phase of my listening life, but there's something about the Spree's version of it--be it a perceived genuineness behind their eternal optimism or how they have updated the concept with current production values--that never fails to elicit a silly smile on my face. I urge you to give "Section 12 (Hold Me Now)" a try and see if you don't also find yourself humming along and pulling out the incense burner."
The Polyphonic Spree Are For People Who Like Music
Pantomime | Detroit | 08/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Years ago, I was under the impression that I didn't like the Beatles. Then I got over it. Having enjoyed both Polyphonic Spree records and attending a recent show of theirs, I can now honestly say that the Spree is one of those rare bands that, if you see them live and you don't have a good time, I feel sorry for you. If the sight of 25 blissed-out, multicolored-robe-clad musicians jumping around like a dancing rainbow and pretending to watch a sunrise as if they drank the Kool-Aid an hour ago doesn't turn you into a giggling retard, I don't know what will. The Spree have an ethereal quality--performing in front of an enormous banner emblazoned with the word "HOPE" in simple block lettering--at times they look like a bunch of friendly aliens who landed on our planet to teach us a thing or two. If this creeps you out, get over it. The reason i'm going on about the live show is that I don't think this or their other album can be properly enjoyed without imagining the music in the context of their live show. Fortunately, for the uninitiated, Together We're Heavy comes with a bonus DVD, containing one particularly frenzied performance at a small club in Chicago, and one performance at a stadium in Tokyo, where, amazingly, the band manages to win over a crowd of thousands. Watch the DVD, or, if you're still skeptical, go to www.thepolyphonicspree.com, under "video" and watch one of their live clips. Then listen to this album. It really is a knockout. The orchestrations, the childlike voices, the psychadelic interludes...it's totally satisfying for anybody who likes music. Listen to it when you're down, and it will bring you back up. Listen to it when you're up, and it will take you higher. The world needs this defiantly happy band, and with this album, they prove that they're here to stay."
This music makes me smile
Effulgent | Dallas, TX United States | 07/31/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To attempt to describe this album is an almost impossible task. I have met many fans of the Polyphonic Spree, and a lot of people that just can't stand the music. It's very much a "you either 'get it' or you don't" type of music.
Well, I get it. Boy, do I get it. This music has great harmonies, and childlike choir backup, and amazing uses of instruments like the theramin and harp. The lyrics are simple, and yet twist and turn in the most unlikely of places. There are pieces that will make you want to jump up and down with glee (the "marching section" in King), and others, such as "Diamonds" that made me weep when I first heard them because they were so beautiful.
Keep an open mind when listening to this music, and it could seriously change your life. This band, this music has changed my life. It has made me see the beauty around me. It has turned me into a more positive, happy person. It has made me dream again. I have met friends and shared with them the beauty of this music.
It's amazing stuff. It's also light years better than the first album, and the first album was beautiful. This one has layer upon layer of musical complexity and sound, and each song is a complex mix of inspired lyrics and inspirational messages."
Baffled by the hate...
Brendan Diamond | Niles, IL United States | 01/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is a big backlash against Tim Delaughter and his Polyphonic buddies these days, and I think it's because people are listening to them without understanding what they're listening to. See, those into prog rock (mid-period Pink Floyd, Yes, Alan Parsons) are expecting to be thrown into mind-numbing fantasies coupled with twenty-odd-minute-long organ solos. Wrong crowd. The indie-rockers want someone to champion, but the Spree are too happy to be indie-rockers (go for Bright Eyes if you're looking for mainstream-acceptable indie rock nowadays). And a lot of people are getting duped into believing that the Spree are doing something akin to Mercury Rev or the Flaming Lips. Well, that's a little closer, but it's the other dichotomy to what I've come to call the "Pet Sounds" revolution, which perfected Phil Spector's Wall of Sound by making it melancholic.
Essentially, Delaughter & Co. are making records using Spector's original format. I mean, what exactly does "Da Do Ron Ron" mean? But it's a heckuva song. And the sound in the background is gorgeous. The Polyphonic Spree are likewise; think of them as a living, breathing, and touring Wall of Sound for the digital-recording age.
And then there are the robes. This part I kind of understand, as (with first the white, then the multi-colored) cultish as it may seem. However, Delaughter brings up a good point in an interview on the DVD schlupped together with this record: what exactly would it look like if everybody in the band was wearing street clothes? You can't get a bunch of people up on stage wearing the same uniforms, either, because then it really DOES become the Brady Bunch (the music's pure '60s bubblegum, which the Brady Bunch also tried to do, but remember, '60s bubblegum also included the Beach Boys, the Spector stable, Tommy James, the Monkees...the list of brilliant pop artists goes on).
But none of this means anything if the music sucks. So strip down the music. Does it do anything?
The answer, resoundingly, is yes. For those who absolutely love that '60s semi-psychedelic pop sound (something like what Mercury Rev went for on "Opus 40," although with a much more "Godspell" attitude), this is the record for you. For those who love the Lips and Mercury Rev and the Apples in Stereo and all those other psych-revival bands, check these guys out, too. But if you're looking for another Yes, look more to bands like Mellow or or Sigur Ros or Grandaddy.
And please, those of you who love this record as much as I do, stop recommending it for fans of the Beatles! This is not Beatles stuff. Beatles fans need to check out the Chamber Strings. This is more for people who can't get "A Rose for Emily" out of their heads."
E. A Solinas | MD USA | 07/13/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Maybe they should have called it "The Middle Stages Of...," since this CD literally picks up where the last one left off. Feel-good band Polyphonic Spree are in fine form on their sophomore CD, "Together We're Heavy" -- it presents pretty much the same sound as in their debut, but more relaxed, polished and panoramic than before. A chorus of very faint voices and a harp explode into an orchestral psychedelic roar. And that's just the first minute of the rippling opener "Section 11 (A Long Day Continues/We Sound Amazed)." They're on more solid footing with the guiltily upbeat "Section 12 (Hold Me Now)," the quivery poppy ballad "Section 13 (Diamonds/Mild Devotion To Majesty)" and the string-laden "Section 15 (Ensure Your Reservation)." The Polyphonic Spree manage to expand their horizons a little with the startlingly catchy "Section 14 (Two Thousand Places)" and the bouncy "Section 18 (Everything Starts At The Seam)." The climax of it all is "Section 19 (When The Fool Becomes A King)," a sprawling 10-minute epic that barely avoids being bloated by constantly changing song styles. Together We're Heavy proves the old saying about how if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The Polyphonic Spree won their fans with their psychedelic feel-good pop, not to mention songs about how the "trees wanna grow," and assuring you that the world is a nice place and that "everything... will be fine." Here, they stick with that formula -- they just smooth out the sound and make the music a bit richer and deeper.The saggiest point would be the opener, which overstays its welcome by about three minutes. But after that, things even out nicely. The instrumentation has a lushness and richness that is rarely seen in most music -- lots of piano, the occasional guitar, swollen strings, ghostly synth, some harp and, of course, lots of horns. Even if the don't-worry-be-happy songwriting is too sugary for you, the panoramic sweeps of swirling melody will keep you happy.The feel-good lyrics are still EXTREMELY simple, somewhere between a complex lullaby and a simple pop song. Not to mention perky. "Stranger to the sun/you see the light!" the chorus announces over and over in the penultimate song. But they do expand on their songwriting, as they do in the more melancholy story-song "Section 16 (One Man Show)."The Polyphonic Spree refine and reflect on "Together We're Heavy," but don't lose the swirling orchestral medleys and upbeat tone that make people like them. Fun and upbeat."