The Polyphonic Spree

There is no reason I can think of as to why I should like this music. We have approximately 20 men and women from Texas, who wear robes, and sing really disgustingly happy songs. Now, I’m very cynical as you know, and if somone had told me that I would be happily enjoying the music of some optimistic, cheery, robed Texan collective, well, I’d not only have laughed in their face, I’d have stolen their wallet and slept with their wife as well, just to really drive the point home.

Look at the elements involved here. I’ve already mentioned the robes, long and flowing and many-coloured. They’re from Texas so they’re already mad by default. They sing songs about trees, and the sun, and holding each other, and smiling. There are horns in the background, and a choir of angelic voices. There’s even a finale reminiscent of Also Sprach Zarathustra. Goddamn hippies. What’s to like about this? Clearly, nothing at all.

And yet…Christ, this music is good.

Like all music, it has it’s place. I’ve found myself unable to listen to much of Together We’re Heavy on a bus, for instance, or when I’m in a hurry walking somewhere. For the most part, this is not music you listen to when you need your adrenaline pumping or when you need to drown out the noise of some pleb testing all their possible ringtones in the seat behind you. No, this is music for lounging around on a sunny day and just feeling really great about things. It’s the aural equivalent of a post-coital cup of tea.

Most of the album is fairly quiet and reflective, which is a change from their first album, The Beginning Stages Of…, which was a far more active affair. Together We’re Heavy starts us off with A Long Day Continues/We Sound Amazed, which, after about 10 seconds of grabbing your attention, drifts off into a lazy, swaying tune. It’s a gentle introduction to The Spree, as if they didn’t want to scare off the straights, and slowly works it’s way up to full Spreeness, with the whole ensemble cast having joined in by about halfway through, and then shushing up for a quiet instrumental, in case it was all just a bit too much.

They’ll…never make me cry

The real test comes with the first single off the album, Hold Me Now. If you can get past this track and still love the Spree then you’ll always love them, because this is unashamedly shzmaltzy stuff, shmzaltzy to the point where you start wondering suspiciously if this whole gig is actually about Jesus. Play it loud and listen closely; you’ll either be throwing up, or waving your hands in the air with a big grin on your face and the hairs on your arms standing up.

It’s tremendously uplifting music, and perhaps that’s why I like it so much. I can be a touch bitter sometimes, and I often struggle to see much that’s positive in people. For good reason, of course — people are rubbish — but The Spree actually make me forget all that for a few moments. Forget about your Libertines or your Selfish Cunt or any of the other gritty, sweaty London bands that seem to be bursting out of the capital like blackheads at the moment; they might be accurately describing what it’s like to be a young man/woman in Britain at the moment, but really, I can watch the news if I want to depress myself. Hell, I can watch ITV if I really want to depress myself.

I admit, the music is out of place. The Middle East is exploding, George Bush is going to turn us all into nuclear dust, and Blair is probably going to get a third go as Prime Minister — there’s just not that much to be optimistic about right now. But, everybody needs a holiday, and if you find the angry young bands are starting to make you feel a little claustrophobic, you could do far worse than take a trip with The Polyphonic Spree.