Still arguably more famous for their flowing white robes than their hippie-friendly psychedelic gospels, Dallas-based symphonic pop-rock choir The Polyphonic Spree have yet to reap the rewards from their relentlessly positive approach. However, written and recorded over several years, their Kickstarter-funded fourth studio effort, Yes It’s True, proves that the underwhelming commercial response to their devotional sound hasn’t dampened their free-wheeling spirit.
With Tim DeLaughter still hell-bent on offering wilfully vague words of wisdom about living life to the fullest, not to mention a string of motivational statements that border on the nonsensical, the majority of its 11 tracks resemble an audio version of a self-help guide, albeit one that’s been badly translated into a foreign language and back again. But amongst the meaningless commands to ‘keep yourself high’ and ‘raise your head to the sky,’ the follow-up to 2007’s The Fragile Army also offers a handful of more personal, introspective and downbeat outpourings which, perhaps for the first time, proves that the former Tripping Daisy frontman doesn’t spend every waking hour possessed by the manic energy of a cult leader.
Opening their first proper LP in six years, this triumphant U2-meets-Flaming Lips affair suggests DeLaughter’s had a few social network run-ins lately as he tries to lift the spirits with a self-empowering message about ignoring the haters whose mission in life is to bring others down: [LISTEN]
Woozy psychedelics, emphatic beats, bombastic horns and a rousing sing-along chorus that instantly lodges itself in the brain, not to mention DeLaughter’s little man lost routine, “Popular By Design” is the full Polyphonic Spree experience encapsulated in four dizzying and disorientating minutes: [LISTEN]
Placing himself in the shoes of a female self-help guru who tries her best to see the good in people, DeLaughter delivers his motivational message with the fervour we’ve come to expect on a gleaming synth-pop number lent a slightly menacing air by an interrupting shoegazey drone: [LISTEN]
Acknowledging their debt to classic psych rock with a closing and knowing ‘ah yes, the sounds of the 70s’ radio announcement, “Carefully Try” breezes by with another wave of ambiguous psychobabble that sound like it’s been plucked from various Deepak Chopra books at random:
Eschewing the usual bluster and pomp, the twinkling indie-pop balladry of “You’re Golden” sees DeLaughter quietly point that it’s not the social media presence, fashion sense or spelling ability of the girl in question that has stolen his heart but simply the way she holds his hand:
Perhaps not receiving the glowing response he desired following his previous declaration of love, DeLaughter drowns in self-pity at having his heart torn in two on a playful slice of baroque pop which sounds like Arcade Fire have suddenly discovered early 80s David Bowie:
Offering his usual mix of nonsensical and motivational, DeLaughter implores the world to break away from the norms and seek out brand new experiences on a dramatic indie-pop symphony which also suggests that straitjackets are about to become the hottest thing in fashion:
Shuffling his way around an array of parping brass, skittering xylophones and stomping beats, DeLaughter pleads with society to leave the creatures of the ocean to their own devices on what could be mistaken for a slightly warped take on The Little Mermaid favorite “Under The Sea:”
Recapturing the psychedelic wonderment of the album’s opening flourishes, the triumphant “Raise Your Head” makes a belated bid to appear on the Man Of Steel soundtrack with its command to ‘zip up your Superman’ and a string of encouraging cries to take flight into the sky:
The swirling acid-rock of “What Would You Do” may have a harder edge than anything else on the LP, but with its various hypothetical questions about how to make the world a better place – singing in unison is unsurprisingly one of their answers – it’s still unashamedly happy-clappy: [LISTEN]
Self-described as his “most personal contribution,” seven-minute closer “Battlefield” sees DeLaughter try to get to grips with the constant rejection from the love of his life on a surprisingly understated Beatles-esque ballad made all the more sombre by its funereal ambient finale: