Sunday, 18 August 2013

The Polyphonic Spree - Yes, It's True (Album Review 2013)

The Polyphonic Spree, led by Tim DeLaughter, and now with a mere twenty musician line-up (including six-piece female choir), release their fifth album Yes, It's True. It's hard to believe they've only made four previous albums, if you count the hit-miss Christmas album of 2012. The band's working philosophy has always been, and will probably remain from now until the end of time, that 'more is less'. This is certainly the approach here, showing the best and the worst of a band who look and feel more like a cult movement; a subversive secret society, designed to inject irony-free happiness into an otherwise unhappy world.

Yes, It's True starts wonderfully. Cool opener You Don't Know Me is the perfect introduction before the two big songs Popular By Design, with its oddly robotic hypnotic chorus against the DeLaughter inner monologue verses, and the sparkling piano-pop of Hold Yourself Up, provide an instant and early album high-point. The wistful vocals of Carefully Try, with added horn section transforms halfway from Flaming Lips to Mercury Rev with increased sound and pace, before the piano ballad You're Golden, a love-song for the geek culture (it's not your Facebook 'Likes'...) becomes a heartfelt and warming tribute.

So far, so uplifting. Sadly, Yes, It's True falls flat in the centre. Heart Talk is bad Bowie. The start/stop Blurry Up The Lines is a confused mess, especially when it builds for the second half, and Let Them Be is a mix of clashing instrumentation. But the album picks up for a strong finish... Raise Your Head is solid, from drum opening build-up into a glorious symphony with a mix of ideas and sounds that (unlike the previous twelve minutes or so) works. What Would You Do? is easily the highlight of the second half - a massive, noisy, group therapy and Q&A session with DeLaughter at the chair. It quietens teasingly for a big riotous finale. And closer Battlefield, which could be clumsy and cluttered is, instead, a gorgeous and delicate piano ballad with horns to finish.

So Yes, It's True is almost a great Polyphonic Spree album; it has the spirit and the heart of a band that is united in a cause. The message from DeLaughter and crew is always positive and welcoming, even if the songs don't work. But that is what you get when 'more is the new less'.
-- CS

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