The Polyphonic Spree The Beginning Stages of...

The front cover of the Polyphonic Spree’s first album The Beginning Stages of… shows the band’s 20+ members standing atop a pile of rubble all dressed in white robes looking rather despondent and distinctly unlike pop stars. Within the bandís number there is a flautist, around four brass players, a few strings, a couple of keyboardists, a harp player and about a dozen vocalists. With many songs consisting of lyrics like “Hey, it’s the sun and it makes me shine” and “days like this keep me warm” repeated ad nauseum the band is starting to look decidedly like a (not particularly good) amateur church music group.

And there is nothing on this album which I can point to explain why they are considerably more than this. The tracks all have straightforward melodies, often seem cluttered by all the instruments and have simple lyrics which are so full of platitudes and niceties would seem more at home on some late night cable religion program. Yet the sum of these not very awe inspiring parts is something truly brilliant. I can’t think of the last time that I heard a record which was so beautifully simple in its message and so full of joy.

the Polyphonic Spree show it is possible to make uplifting music without it being sickeningly sugary sweet

Nowhere is this more evident than on “Soldier Girl”. There is nothing complex about the song, with a simple melody repeated over and over as the various instruments — first flute, then guitar, strings, drums, brass and finally something that sounds worryingly like a theremin — come in. Yet by the end of the song your feet will be tapping away and you’ll be joining in the group sing-along of the song’s one lyric — “I’ve found my soldier girl, she’s so far away, she makes my head spin around” — as if they were the most profound sentiments ever recorded. The vast majority of music made today (and almost all the CDs in my collection) concentrate on negative emotions. The Polyphonic Spree show it is possible to make uplifting music without it being sickeningly sugary sweet. In such depressing days it is important that someone is reminding us to “have a day, celebrate, soon you’ll find the answer”.

1 comment posted — most recent by Tom on 20/05/04