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Spree's sunny schtick
The Polyphonic Spree - The Fragile Army
Review by Tony BonyataI have to admit that when I first heard The Polyphonic Spree's third and latest album The Fragile Army open up with their now obligatory conglomerate of Pollyanna harmonies, sunny symphonies and twittering flutes I was ready to write them off as a one-trick pony (albeit one with twenty heads, as that's how many members there are in this latest incarnation of the Dallas-based indie-rock band/orchestra).
But not unlike their first two efforts (2002's The Beginning Stages of... and 2004's Together We're Heavy) what carries this unique brand of choral symphonic rock beyond all the swirling strings and flourishing French horns is that bandleader Tim DeLaughter knows how to craft some really great tunes. And The Fragile Army is brimming with a good number of them - from the positive pop of "We Crawl," "Younger Yesterday" and "The Championship" to the punchier "Guaranteed Nightlite" and "Get Up And Go," complete with an indelible guitar riff and DeLaughter's quirky, warbling vocal delivery.
Visually for this effort the entire congregation has abandoned their trademark white robes in favor of their more deceiving new garbs of black combat suits. Despite seeming like a contradiction to their uplifting music, upon closer inspection these battle fatigues are embroidered with hearts (signifying according to DeLaughter, "care and thoughtfulness") and red crosses ("representing first aid"). And it's the peaceful, healing emblems from their new wardrobe that marries perfectly with their optimistic pop rock.
Unfortunately when they do try and expand their sound on the more experimental electro-pop of "Light To Follow" the song drags its feet through the first two-thirds with a cheesy '80s sounding synth over some ghostly harmonizing, before the number picks up steam for an over-the-top rocking conclusion. "Overblow Your Nest" follows similar suit as the predominately tender piano-driven ballad erupts into a swelling symphony by song's end.
While The Polyphonic Spree may be treading similar ground with their grand, sunshiny pop on The Fragile Army, they're thankfully still able to muster up enough well written songs to keep their reach-for-the-stars symphonic schtick in check.
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