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The Beginning Stages Of...
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This "demo" was recorded in a mere 3 days. The band was forced to release this brilliant collection to appease an overwhelming demand. Like the pop artists of yesteryear, The Polyphonic Spree know the importance of lush arrangements. Their HUGE sound is accented by viola, cello, trumpet, french horn, trombone, flute, theremin, a 10 person choir, and a veritable orchestra of other instruments.
Led by former Tripping Daisy frontman Tim DeLaughter, the Polyphonic Spree is like a user-friendly version of the Danielson Family. Decked in saintly white robes and flaunting a 10-piece choir and 13-piece band, the Dallas ensemble conjures a sound as pure and delightful as a jug of tropical Kool-Aid on the hottest day of the year. With hints of the Beach Boys , Flaming Lips, and the Beatles--all at their most blissfully intoxicated--The Beginning Stages is the big sound of summer compressed onto a small disc, with the airy tweet of flutes, wind chimes, and breathy incantations like "Hey, it's the sun, and it makes me shine." Depending on your partiality for mid-70s macramé culture, this is either a gift from the gods or the worst thing that could possibly happen to pop culture since bellbottoms made a comeback. --Aidin VaziriSee all Editorial Reviews
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"Section 1 (Have A Day - Celebratory)" opens the album on a gentle, somewhat downbeat note that belies the rest of the album. Most of it is sunny to the point of saccharine like the bright horns and wails of "Suuuuuuuun!" that come in "Section 2 (It's The Sun)," the lightweight "Section 3 (Days Like This Keep Me Warm)," and the half-polished finale "Reach For The Sun."
But along the way, they do have some deviations from form -- "La" is a discordant if fun little track, and the wispy "Section 5 (Middle of the Day)" is just a meandering little foghorn song that never figures out what it wants to be, and ends up as nothing. "Soldier Girl" is perhaps the most engaging song on the album, and also the most complex -- woo-woo electronic effects, simple lyrics, and a fuzzy finale.
It is possible to take "Beginning Stages Of..." seriously despite their dancing, white robes and odes to the sun -- I mean, David Bowie did it. Admittedly it's not too easy. But musically while "Beginning Stages Of..." is not nearly as good as their sophomore album "Sometimes We're Heavy," it is a pleasant listen.
Former Tripping Daisy Tim Delaughters does a pretty good job with his androgynous vocals, although it helps that he is backed by a few dozen other people. They're not too good at harmony or sticking together, though. And the less said about the ultra-simplistic lyrics, the better -- okay, life is good, cheer up, whatever.
If the vocals are only so-so, the instrumentation is quite good. Horns and percussion are the most prominent, with the brass adding a brighter note to the airy strings and mellow guitar. There is also what sounds like a flute and a xylophone on "Section 1 (Have A Day - Celebratory)," which add to the childlike feel of the music.
Some listeners who prefer less sunny music may get all blissed out by this album, and the polished demos aren't as good as they could have been. But "Beginning Stages Of..." is a pleasant bit of neo-hippie pop.
That being said, the statements and comparisons made in some of the other reviews are absolutely insane. One reviewer compares "The Beginning Stages" to an E.L.O. album. Apparently that reviewer has either not listened to this record or is completely unfamiliar with our electric light friends, because this album is much more in an unpolished Bowie-meets-Beach-Boys (ca. 1972) vibe than an ELO one (don't believe me? Listen again to the instrumentation on "Days Like This" and compare it to anything on "Sunflower" or "Aladdin Sane").
Now this IS a demo, so it's nowhere near perfect. And yes, I agree with the reviewer who believes that "A Long Day" is pretentious crap. But songs like "It's the Sun," "Have a Day/Celebratory," "Soldier Girl," and "Light and Day" (note: the latter two are very different than their single counterparts) are instant-classic pop songs.
One thing I really don't understand, however, is that people are actually criticizing this band because of its NAME. Since when is that a cool thing to do? The Polyphonic Spree is not a description; it's a band name. Have you ever heard of the Quicksilver Messenger Service? Moby Grape? The Exploding Plastic Inevitable? It's a name much like those, folks; if you're too lame to figure that out, you're not going to get this music, and I suggest you go back to listening to whatever garbage J Records is putting out this week. If, however, you're interested in fun and musically uplifing mixes of Bowie, Brian, and Godspell (sorry, I ran out of B's), I highly recommend this album as a starting point, then purchasing their far-superior follow-up "Together We're Heavy."
But nothing compares to seeing this band live in concert. Go see them. You won't be disappointed. Just lose your jadedness and give it a shot.
Now..track 10. I hated track 10 at first but after 12 minutes of it...I was hooked. Here Tim Delaughter was trying to [annoy] me with 36 min of aural assault...and for 12 minutes he succeeded. Then..I tried to turn it off...and I couldn't. All the ooh's and aahh's become strangely addicting. But that's just my take on it. I can understand how many would find it to be the most innane piece of drivel they've ever heard.