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Pop at the Pearly Gates

The Polyphonic Spree

The Polyphonic Spree -
The Beginning Stages of...The Polyphonic Spree
(Good Records)
3 1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: May 30, 2003

Review by Tony Bonyata

"This is a choral symphonic pop band," explains Tim DeLaughter on his new project The Polyphonic Spree. And with a twenty-three member congregation, all cloaked in long flowing white robes, along with the swelling orchestral maneuvers of trumpets, timpanis, violins, harps and piccolos weaving throughout the trippy pop of their debut album The Beginning Stages of...The Polyphonic Spree, DeLaughter's description couldn't be more on the money.
Once the frontman for the defunct band Tripping Daisy, DeLaughter now plays musical prophet to his oversized Dallas-based choir (remember, everything's BIG in Texas). But instead of coming off preachy or self-righteous, the spiritualized music that fills out this album is uplifting, celebratory and bathed in sunshine.
Blending the grand cinematic quirkiness of the Flaming Lips with The Beatles' pre-Rishikesh psychedelic pop dabblings and Brian Wilson's Pet Sounds studio wizardry, along with a pocketful of dark avant-garde jazz musings, the results make for a refreshingly new testament in what pop music can be.
Just as this large group of people seems to lose their individuality when the robes are donned and the strings are flowing, the ten songs here have no names featured anywhere on the liner notes or album art. Now I'm pretty sure these tracks, just like the bandmembers, all have names, but apparently DeLaughter didn't feel it necessary to list them, instead letting the music do all the necessary introductions.
Although the first nine tracks are wonderful examples of what pop music might sound like upon entering the pearly gates, the final track, which lasts an agonizing thirty-six-and-a-half minutes, is a mind-numbing soundscape of droning ambient electronica (imagine the sounds humming from Brian Eno's backyard if he started taking up beekeeping and you're getting close). Of course, if Lennon can get away with "Revolution #9", and Lou Reed with Metal Machine Music, then why can't these guys get a little artsy farsty if they want? Just as long as they keep the sunshiny pop flowing from their big smiling Kool-Aid pitcher then I suppose they can.

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