CD Review: The Polyphonic Spree

Thomas Grundmeier

Artist: The Polyphonic Spree

Album: “The Fragile Army”

Label: TVT

Release date: June 19, 2007

Availability: CD, iTunes beginning June 19

If there’s any band in recent memory that seemed like a one-trick pony upon their debut, it’s the Polyphonic Spree. Almost literally bursting onto the scene with its two-dozen members clad in colorful robes and pop songs sugary enough to put a diabetic in a coma, the Polyphonic Spree had a hit on its hands with “Light and Day,” which was plastered all over movies and TV shows in the years that followed. The band’s first two albums, “The Beginning Stage Of.” and “Together We’re Heavy,” featured standout singles but not much else worthy to note.

For their third album, “The Fragile Army,” the band has undergone a Bowie-style makeover. Instead of donning robes, the musicians are sporting all-black military uniforms. While this choice seems appropriate living in Bush’s America of today, the change appears to be purely aesthetic. The new record is as poppy and symphonic as ever. What has changed, however, is the quality of the tunes. “The Fragile Army” is easily the Polyphonic Spree’s best collection of songs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the album is devoid of the problems of repetition that plagued the group’s other albums.

The best tracks are the few in which the band breaks free of its old formula and move toward more sparse arrangements. “Get Up and Go” and “Oh I Feel Fine” both find their energy from the prominent guitar, giving the strings and choir a chance to complement instead of lead. “Light to Follow” is the best work found here, at times leaving vocalist Tim DeLaughter accompanied by just electronic drums or a laid-back bass line.

A more drastic change in direction to match the band’s look would have been nice, but some of the best Spree tracks can be found here. Just don’t expect anything that groundbreaking for the group.