The Polyphonic Spree, Camden Electric Ballroom, review: Wonderfully crafted moments of orchestral pop

Longer songs are dragged out endlessly however, and eventually the unrelenting positivity wears thin

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

The Polyphonic Spree were unlikely contenders to ever embark on a 15th anniversary tour. Never mind that their 2002 debut The Beginning Stages Of…, celebrated in its grandiose entirety tonight, was essentially a demo recorded in just 48 hours, their shtick - a 24-strong troupe of deliriously happy Texans clad in white robes armed with French horns and trite platitudes - had all the hallmarks of a novelty act.

In the event, The Polyphonic Spree became a cult band that actually dressed like a cult, only one whose ambitions were no more sinister than singing odes to the sun and telling you that, actually, everything is going to be just fine.

Over a decade since their David Bowie-endorsed introduction, however, and their ebb has never been lower. Artistically and commercially eclipsed by Arcade Fire and even superseded by their former guitarist Annie Clark, aka current critical darling St Vincent, label issues, financial worries and diminishing songwriting returns have made for testing times.

Yet even with their commercial peak a distant memory and costs having reduced their number to 14 members, The Polyphonic Spree’s ability to deliver communal euphoria is, if anything, more forceful than ever. As if aware he needs to work harder for our attention, frontman Tim DeLaughter, the man around whom the carnival coalesces, is an enraptured presence throughout. With an indefatigable optimism that could lift spirits in the gallows, he carries the show through sheer force of will.

It helps that many of the songs, particularly from The Beginning Stages Of…, are wonderfully crafted moments of orchestral pop. For all of their nursery rhyme simplicity, it’s impossible not to be swept up by the joyous triple whammy of Hanging Around the Day, Solider Girl and Light and Day/Reach for the Sun.

A fantastic cover of The Monkees’ Porpoise Song, which mutates in to an expansive free form jazz odyssey a la Spiritualized, can’t quite mask that the second half of the show is patchier: longer songs are dragged out endlessly and, eventually, the unrelenting positivity wears thin. Yet for having the fortitude to stay resolutely true to his vision, few would deny DeLaughter another day in the sun.

Comments