I'll tell ya, when I opened the booklet to the Polyphonic Spree's debut big label release, The Beginning Stages of . . . (Hollywood) and saw the words, "This is a choral symphonic pop band," my first impulse was to shudder. The pic of the group - a mass of indistinct white-robes standing in the Great Outdoors - didn't assuage my fears either. What kind of faux flower power trip was this, anyhoo?
Not an altogether bad one, it turns out. The brainchild of former Tripping Daisy-ite Tim DeLaughter, the Spree sing a lotta paeans to the glory of the sunlight and such, but they do it with tons of harmonic conviction. The results occasionally recall such orchestral pop-rockers as Bri Wilson at his most grandiose and ELO at their least overstuffed - and sometimes that high school-band-&-chorus LP that your parents bought to memorialize the years their kid spent as a second chair oboist. If some tracks work better 'n' others, well, the closer DeLaughter and crowd move to plain poppery and away from Lumpy Gravy, the better it all works. When we get fluglehorn cattle-calls in "Middle of the Day," I start to worry that this celebration of the daylight's gonna turn sour. Fortunately, that middle track is a momentary glitch in what proves to be an exceedingly listener-friendly collection - at least 'til a droning 36-minute instrumental finale entitled "A Long Day" pisses away the promise of the previous nine tracks.
But leave us skip that downer cut and concentrate on the highlights instead: two-part track "Hanging Around the Day" and "Soldier Girl," for example, which utilize DeLaughter's appealing frail voice against a booming swell of guys-&-gals to good effect. Disc opener "Have A Day/Celebratory" and penultimate track "Light & Day/Reach for the Sun" also both possess plenty of sparkle. Are the lyrics as sappy as the Cowsills? At times, yes. But it still sounds plenty sweet, even if the PolySpree does overplay the "Magical Mystery Tour" hornwork.
Apparently, this disc was initially released on an indy label several years ago before the music mavens at Hollywood Records came along to give it better distribution. Sounds like the music companies are searchin' far and wide for the Next Big Thing - and more power(pop) to 'em. While a full-scale trend of this sort of stuff could be pretty deadly, by itself the Polyphonic Spree is a pleasant aberration. Could do a lot worse this summer than a nine-track revamp of "Here Comes the Sun."