If Anthony Robbins had a rock band, it would probably sound like this. Described as a psychedelic Up With People, The Polyphonic Spree is a choir robe-clad assemblage of over two dozen singers and musicians, including a harpist, a theremin player, and a wind section that strongly contributes to their striking signature sound. They are led by a cheerful madman named Tim Delaughter (rhymes with daughter, no matter how perfectly fitting the other pronunciation would be), who came up with the concept after his original band, Tripping Daisy, came apart following the loss of guitarist Wes Berggren to a drug overdose.
Listening to The Spree in full flight, one might conclude that if Berggren could have heard it, he might still be around. Delaughter has concocted an antidote to despair, and losing oneself in it can be an intoxicating experience. Keyboard lines circle lazily, gradually intensifying, as Delaughter’s giddy vocals lay down aphoristic affirmations, swirls of horns and flutes buoy the mood higher, and the choir kicks everything into the stratosphere. Traditional song structure is discarded in favor of repeating passages that grow steadily more complex each time around, and melodic mantras chanted in turn by Delaughter and the choir. Some have criticized the structure as being like one long chorus, but even if that is true, it is a chorus that you may find yourself singing, and singing, the whole day long.
The Polyphonic Spree’s first album, The Beginning Stages Of…, is essentially their original demo recording, recorded in two days in 2000, which they handed out personally to their fans before landing a contract with indie label Good Records. After a very extended interval (during which Good Records gave them the boot), they hatched their follow-up, Together We’re Heavy, which was released on Hollywood Records in the summer of 2004. The All-Music Guide calls Beginning Stages… “life-affirming music of the highest caliber,” and they like the next one even more, so unless you’re waiting for a beam of divine light, check ’em out now.