In a tidal wave of what could conceivably be a track list edited from Godspell, the Polyphonic Spree’s second album is an indication of growth and maturity within the band. Together We’re Heavy is a considerable step forward in songwriting and production as compared to their relatively uneven debut, 2002’s The Beginning Stages of the Polyphonic Spree.
The Spree still boasts its twenty-plus personnel, presumably comprised of former front-of-the-bus dorks from the high school band. The kids that had tables of lunch hurled in their direction as freshmen are still battling to be recognized, it seems; the orchestral jubilance has increased tenfold on Together We’re Heavy, and the plentitude of instruments is almost lost in this huge, glorious mix. There are significant differences in production here, as singer/songwriter Tim DeLaughter’s vocals sound crisper than they did two years ago, appearing untreated on nearly each of the ten new “sections” (songs) here. DeLaughter is closer than ever to Flaming Lips’ frontman Wayne Coyne, still prescribing sunshine to any strung-out Association addict that will listen.
The melodies are largely piano-based; DeLaughter composed them on an inherited piano over the course of a year. And songwriting has taken priority on this record, whereas the debut may have wallowed a bit in the spectacle of the Polyphonic Spree, which meant less-focused compositions. The spectacle remains, though, having not changed in the slightest.
Together‘s strengths are in the sheer complexity of its tracks, from its stoned opening moments through its glorious conclusions. The instrumental fifth track is so intricate that it couldn’t possibly have appeared on the first album. Again, it’s based on delicate arpeggio’d piano keys until pizzicato strings, then woodwinds and harp, enter. At only a minute and forty seconds, it trumps most of the overblown predecessor LP. The Polyphonic Spree has proven with this record’s catchy, stronger tracks that there is more to this outfit than their matching outfits.
Still touting positivity and most of the same themes that run rampant on any Harpers Bizarre collection, the Spree comfort us with lines like “Don’t start shaking,” assuring us we’re not “the only one.” How could we not be comforted when this consolation is coming from at least twenty-four people? Positivity remains a steadfast war hero here, and not a moment is wasted on silly notions of realism. Together We’re Heavy is a giant, sunny leap at least into the possibility of becoming an everyday listen.