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The Beginning Stages of... by The Polyphonic Spree

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Reviewed on 1st September 2002.


The Beginning Stages of...

By The Polyphonic Spree

OK. This is the story. Tim DeLaughter was in a psychedelic band called Tripping Daisy. The guitarist had a fatal drugs accident and Tim created the Polyphonic Spree in 2000 as an experimental gospel pop rock orchestra thing to bring joy to as many people as could be got into the band or into the gig. It was two dozen multiple fresh starts.

The gigs must be astonishing. A choir of ten, a theremin, piano, viola, harp, guitars, flute, trumpet, bass, electronical gidgets and whatever else gadgets. Plus a mission to be euphorically at one with the day, the universe and the self. And everyone gets to wear a big white gown over their shirt and pants.

The music itself is almost secondary to the dream. The album (reported to have been recorded in just three days) has a sequence of movements (or sections) that nuzzle in an exploratory and affectionate way into ten different ways of keeping it in the day. The Edwin Hawkins Singers' "Oh Happy Day" has its DNA lurking in the brood while Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson and Andrew Lloyd Webber hang about looking sheepish. The whole thing could be the most ridiculous and amazing school project you ever saw - C'mon kids lets do it here in the cafeteria! Everyone blows, pounds, hammers, strums, picks, plucks and sings their hearts out and it sounds... well, euphoric.

It starts with a reveille, "Have a Day" that comes gently out of sleep with a gracious piano, strings and French horn. Tim's Mercury Rev-like voice soars out of bed and the whole ensemble get stuck in with corn flakes, xylophones trumpets and anything else that's wholesome. "Soon, you'll find the answer", they swoop, with big descending La La Las in thirds. Then "It's the Sun" with swirling flute and loads of voices and a big smiley wave to the Beatles' "Here comes the Sun" on the way past. Shuffling on through Section 3 we get to the demented greatness of La La (section 4) which is very different. It's Dexy's meets Tom Waits in a Hollywood jungle clearing. Really wild. Section 5 (middle of the day) continues the great outdoors theme with tribal horns finding their own unique pitch in a pre-industrial and impassioned and tremulous kind of way.

It moves on with submarine elctronica and a great French horn tune that bridges into the Big Number at section 7 "Hanging Around the Day" Part 2. Two minutes 39 of delirious joy. "God only knows what you're missing" they chant. God only know's what I'm hearing, I mutter.

Well into the creative part of the day, the obvious single "Soldier Girl" marches in like Arthur Lee's long lost lover, guitars and strings swapping riffs as if they wanted a relationship too.

The temperature cools and we're into "Light and Day" from Mike Oldfield territory. Light and airy though it is, it still builds like something cosmic as it moves into "Reach for the Sun", and roars along with Phil Spector egging them on into climactic release.

Exhasuted, they bring it to a neat and very satisfying close.

And then, sorry to say, its the first quarter bar of Laurie Anderson's "Oh Superman" cut and remixed for 36 minutes with glitchy irritants thrown in to wake you up from time to time. You have been warned. LSD can give you very good and very bad experiences. Section 10 is a hint at the nightmares. I am trying to sit through it for a third time, and I know I won't be able to. When you buy your copy you can transfer it onto a CD-R or your minidisk and leave off this second half of the album. The first half is still worth the money. The web site has a great opening page. Be patient and it will be yours.

PS My third listen to "A Long Day" (yes, good title) is now up to 29:37. It's still Laurie Anderson. Can I wake up now?



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