Review: The Polyphonic Spree – Yes, It’s True
Published on July 29th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Just because The Polyphonic Spree hit on such a great gimmick, doesn’t mean they’re not a great band. If any doubt were lingering, Yes, It’s True obliterates it with all the positive affirmation implied by its title.
Their fourth album and first in six years – that is if you don’t count last year’s Christmas covers album HolidayDream: Sounds of the Holidays Vol. One – Yes, It’s True is at once a rampant force for good and a chops-smacking reminder that such statements needn’t boil down to ‘happy clappy’ inconsequentiality.
“You Don’t Know Me” comes swaggering in with all the assertiveness of its title (okay, we’ll stop doing that now), its halo underpinned by scuzzy, monotone bass and its driving rhythm kicking no little ass.
It’s got a lean ‘n’ mean edge to it that works a treat in tandem with their fluttery kind of heavenwards ascent, represented here by psychedelically Beatles-y trumpet and deliriously tooting woodwind.
When it all ends with something that sounds like a digeridoo revving up, you suspect the joys won’t end there.
The ensuing “Popular By Design” continues in the vein of sweetly stomping psychedelia. As obvious a reference point as The Flaming Lips may be, Tim DeLaughter sounds strikingly like Wayne Coyne in the verse, with Polyphonic Spree signatures applied by an utterly wonderful swirl of flutes around him and then an enraptured chant of a chorus that’s backed by a richly parping brass section.
Another ingenious ending is ensured when the aforementioned chant is hurled backwards at us in gleefully disorientating fashion. These cats ain’t just a great live proposition, they’re fully fledged studio wizards too.
Having taken flight in no uncertain terms, Yes, It’s True continues to soar right through “Hold Yourself Up” and the ridiculously lovely “Carefully Try”, the latter of which makes us want to write ‘euphoric Grandaddy‘. (Another smashing ending, too: this time, a well-to-do BBC Radio 2 sort of voice announces “Ah yes, the sounds of the ’70s from The Polyphonic Spree”.)
So far Yes, It’s True has kept quite a singular sort of pace but, rather than this holding it back, it makes a glorious strength of it. Things take a turn for the dolorous however on “You’re Golden”, a gorgeously Malkmus-y lilt done up all nice like with piano and strings.
“It’s not the car that you drive / It’s not your phone with an i / It’s not your Facebook likes / It’s not your Instagram pride” instructs DeLaughter, who is perhaps one of the few singers going who can get away with wielding such references without it cloying. The backwards guitar breakdown feels like the thousandth ingenious touch so far and we’re only five tracks in.
Next up we’re treated to the rolling marching drums and crashing rapture of “Blurry Up the Lines” (featuring what sounds like, and what we hope is indeed, the line “Blaming that stain on your life”), before “Let Them Be” skip-stomps/stomp-skips along like some benevolent tyrannosaurus rex skipping down the street, whistling to the birds. Something like that, anyway.
“Raise Your Head” aligns itself with the opening few tracks, driving with psych-tinged wonderment and all fitted up with lavish arrangements befitting of the band’s unusually high population; then “What Would You Do?” buzzes with synth bass and hits high points of screeching rapture – yes we’ve used that word already, but it bears repeating here – that prepare us for DeLaughter’s gloriously daft “What would you do if you could be the perfect mum or dad? / I’d write a small book and put it in every newborn baby’s head”.
Seven-minute closer “Battlefield” winds down proceedings with an elegant piano trot hewn of blissful chord changes, and there you have it: Yes, It’s True, one of the albums of the year. You just need to be prepared to see The Polyphonic Spree for what they really are, which is a truly – yes – great band.
Yes, It’s True will be released on August 5th on Cherry Red Records/Good Recordings.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!