Deluxe enhanced UK pressing of their 2007 features one bonus audio track ('Checking Out') plus one bonus enhanced track (the music video for 'Running Away'). The Polyphonic Spree's new album The Fragile Army is a passionat... more »e explosion that finds the legendary 23 piece symphonic rock group joyfully raging against the dying of the light with newfound zeal. See them on tour all summer. Gut.« less
Deluxe enhanced UK pressing of their 2007 features one bonus audio track ('Checking Out') plus one bonus enhanced track (the music video for 'Running Away'). The Polyphonic Spree's new album The Fragile Army is a passionate explosion that finds the legendary 23 piece symphonic rock group joyfully raging against the dying of the light with newfound zeal. See them on tour all summer. Gut.
"If there was ever any question as to whether the Polyphonic Spree could rock your freakin socks off, it has been laid to rest with their release of The Fragile Army. This album is, in short, nothing less than a masterpiece, perhaps destined to become the Spree's all-time classic. Almost every song is excellent. The Spree, under the direction of their visionary leader, Tim DeLaughter, have taken their ultra-uplifting, relentlessly optimistic approach to music and injected it with a dose of high octane rock & roll. The result is an album with everything we always loved about the Spree (tremendous choral arrangements, regal brass flourishes, and smiley-faced lyrics), plus a bunch of new things to love (cool guitar leads, compact song structures, and a slightly harder edge). Although I loved Together We're Heavy (and still do), this is a more focused, catchy, and immediate collection of songs.
The album begins with a cool intro taken from the end of Together We're Heavy, and quickly blasts into high gear with Section 22 (Running Away). This song is clearly meant to attract the attention of new fans, with its driving beat and catchy melody. The excitement level (and volume) stays set at 11 for Section 23 (Get Up and Go), which gives us the first dose of the Spree's compelling new sound. The stomping rock beat and strident guitar leads are sure to grab your attention, while DeLaughter's sports announcer vocals ring out over the din. This is followed by the epic title track, which features a great, building middle section. The best song on the album, and one of the Spree's best ever, is Section 29 (Light to Follow). Beginning with a startling techno drum beat and ambient synthesizers, it contains some truly impressive moments that set it apart even amidst the many other great songs. Other highlights include the gentler We Crawl, the broadway-esque Guaranteed Nightlight, and The Championship. "
The Spree take a Side-Step
Jason | USA | 06/29/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Make no mistake. This is a solid record. It's also an improvement on past work in some ways. Unfortunately, it seems that Tim and company have taken two steps forward and two steps back.
This release shows a return of sorts for Tim Delaughter to a songwriting style reminiscent of his work with Tripping Daisy. Gone almost completely are the lyrics consisting of four to eight lines which get repeated over and over again (thankfully). Instead, we get lyrical ideas which are almost entirely fleshed out. The end result is a collection of songs which are well-constructed, concise, and almost unrelentingly cheerful.
Sadly, it's this merit which is also the album's downfall. The formulaic songwriting works until about half-way through the album, and while the songs of the second half are just as strong as those of the first, it's hard to notice because there's really nothing new to surprise you by the time you get that far. And while it's nice to have more concise songs, we lose those magically epic moments found in tracks such as "Suitcase Calling" and "When the Fool Becomes a King" from their 2004 release "Together We're Heavy."
Another issue facing this record is the orchestration. While past Spree albums have placed more of an emphasis on the orchestral instruments, this album sounds like an indie-rock/pop band merely augmenting its sound with expanded instrumentation. The "extra" players are given the role of extras and don't come out of those roles very often. Even the quaint little choir is downplayed on this album. The standard rock instruments give the arrangements very little room to breathe for most of the album and little room for the tiny orchestra to shine.
However, this album shouldn't be discarded completely. There are some great tunes here including the first single "Running Away," and the track "Mental Cabaret" which made a previous appearance on the oft overlooked "Wait" EP. These songs hit us full force with the joy that The Polyphonic Spree have become so well known for. However, the end result is really something that doesn't quite harness the band's full potential. Hopefully we can look forward to them achieving that in the future."
Never bothered to listen to these guys- mistake!
Brian Moore | Florida | 06/20/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I never jumped (or perhaps floated)on this particular band wagon. From friend's descriptions it sounded way too hippiesque for my tastes. On a lark I purchased this album and have not been dissapointed. This disc reminds me a bit of Pink Floyd during their Wall era with a dash of Arcade Fire althouh it is almost relentlessly upbeat.
20+ members, harmonies, strings, weird 60ish arangements. Pretty satisfying all in all. I don't know that I will become a convert but I dig this disc. If you enjoy some of the newer bands to come out as of late like the Arcade Fire and grew up listening to oldies this could be for you. Especially if you like a little more layering to your music, providing an opportunity to discover a little more on each listen."
Coming into their own as artists
Glen Engel Cox | Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | 11/01/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It used to be that an artist--be it a painter, writer, or musician--was developed. That was one of the functions of a producer, agent, or editor: to discover new talent and help it become great. Take, for example, the career of Kate Bush. Discovered in her teens by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd and signed to EMI records, they elected to hold off releasing a debut album by her until she finished school and took some additional training in both performance and dance. Yes, she had a hit with "Wuthering Heights" off the first album, but the second and third were somewhat missteps and it wasn't until the breakthrough of Hounds of Love did she come into her own. Today, every new album or book needs to be a blockbuster, a milllion-seller, and if it isn't, then let's find the next big thing. Artists just aren't given the time to develop and find their sound or style.
But there's an exception to everything, and in this case it's The Polyphonic Spree. The Fragile Army is their third full release and it is the culmination of the promise that was implied in their first album but buried behind the muddy demo nature of the recording. The second album showed what a cleaner production could do for them, but the songs were still wandering between moments of greatness and parts better snipped in the editing. Both of those albums are echoed in the first track here, "Section 21 [Together We're Heavy]," by both the title (referencing the name of the second album) and the sound (a repeat of a musical theme on that album paired with a sonic production that sounds as if the instruments were recorded underwater). And then the second track starts and its a startling change: the instrumentation is the same, but it's as if they had surfaced for air and all the full sound can be heard. Later, the instrumentation will change between that full band sound and individual parts, but the dichotomy established early says to the listener of the earlier albums that this one is going to be different.
The creative force behind the band is Tim Delaughter, and what he discovered between the last album and this one is that silence is a part of music, too. It's easy to understand why it was such a problem earlier--when you have 20+ members, everyone's gonna want to make some noise. Like a good conductor, though, Delaughter has reined in that tendency and there's a full range of dynamics on this album, from sections of quiet beauty that is just an acoustic piano or harp to bombastic marches that are driven by the full force of each member's effort.
The strengths of the Spree remain the interplay of the multiple instruments, including the aforementioned harp, a flute, violin and a french horn, along with the power of being backed by a strong six-member choir. With Delaughter's newly re-discovered sense of song structure, this is the best album for new listeners to try. The songs are still titled as a sequence of sections that began with the first album, but the excesses of those early songs are missing here, thankfully. It's a bit like the transition that occurred with Pink Floyd between the psychedlic mess (glorious as some may have found it) of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn to the atmospheric, but structurally sound, Dark Side of the Moon.
The Spree aren't for everyone. Delaughter's voice in particular isn't strong, and his wavering vocals can easily put you off listening for what's behind them. I lent this CD to a buddy and his comment was that it was too akin to Broadway musicals for him, and there are a couple of tracks where the combination of voices and sounds does fit the description. But Delaughter's lyrics are too opaque to be able to draw a coherent story out of them, nor do the songs suffer from the tyranny of the lyrics (i.e., that the lyrics drive the song, rather than sharing that with the music) that infects the work of modern musical composers. Delaughter is, however, an incurable romantic and his optimism infects his songwriting. There's nothing as painfully sincere as "It's the Sun," and there's some melancholy lurking underneath some of the lyrics, but Delaughter remains committed to being upbeat as ever. If anything, it's a refreshing change from what gets played on the radio."
The Fragile Army and the Strong Spirited Band
Bryan M. MCNEELY | Fort Wayne, Indiana United States | 07/01/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Being one of the most intriguing bands of the past seven years can be a tough role to maintain when the business of pop rock music frequently demands bigger and better things from the artists and bands that employ the style. Though nowhere near the fringe of mainstream and typical pop, the Polyphonic Spree shows battle scars from the relentless struggle between indie success and the desire to make a career out of one's craft.
Sure, the Spree have many, many fans across the globe and they're surely receiving back what they most certainly deserve, but never have they appeared too focused on the business side of the career. That's what makes "The Fragile Army" such a rich experience.
No longer alienating and (as) peculiar as they were on their first full-length release "The Beginning Stages of... The Polyphonic Spree," Tim and the band have chosen a fuller, more rock-based approach to this latest release. The choral vocals and Tim's sometimes-heartaching vocals still exist, however, as many tracks still promote personal gain through positivity and the ignorance of everything sour and unhealthy. (They are sugary sweet, aren't they?) This has not changed much, and to tell you the truth, this makes them better. Sticking to one's formula, though sometimes a crutch and a means to sound dated, can also be a boon as the Spree show in bunches with "The Fragile Army."
...though it sounds so much...bigger.
Every track, with the exception of the short intro opener, has an erupting boom of multi-instrumentalist sound and fury. Guitars and drums take center stage as the harps, flutes and other secondary instruments seem to have fallen back just a bit. Again, going for a bigger, more full sound may have required a bit less experimentation. Trust me, though.. this is still the Spree. A little more confident, maybe, but nevertheless a wonderful "maturation" of their sound.
There's also no shortage of hooks and sing-songy melodies to help define each track. While it can possibly be said that some of the tracks are "helped" greatly by others on the album, this was probably the intent, as even the liner notes suggest and recommend that users treat the album as one full piece rather than simply a bunch of tracks. I love the Spree for this simply because they treat their creations as something more than a CD full of singles. (Hear that pop mainstream?)
In traditional Spree fashion, "The Fragile Army" continues the...well, continuance...of "sections." This album picks up directly where "Together We're Heavy" leaves off. Once again, this takes the Spree into the realm of pseudo-legendary status as the songs are treated as being very important pieces to the full puzzle, the full idea of the Polyphonic Spree.
As I mentioned, the experimental aspect of what the Spree has been offering us for the past handful of years now has taken a bit of a backseat to the more standard stylings of pop rock. Listening to the first album, to the second and now this third full-length release, you can tell that certain bits and pieces of what made them unique to begin with are slowly, but surely, fading out, however, they have NOT lost any of their spirit or their magic that makes them such a fun listen. If I could hear more of their history in their present day material, I'd give "The Fragile Army" a full five stars.
Take it as four and a half. This album is very, very well done and even non-fans of the Spree may find this as enchanting as I do.
The bonus DVD is a very interesting look at the making of this particular album. While it contains the video for the title track, the introspective, strangely voyeuristic documentary on the band is a definite must-see for fans. Tim and the band obviously work very, very hard on their creation and it shows not only in the final product, but the amateurish footage present in the DVD.