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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
The Polyphonic Spree
Together We're Heavy
Hollywood Records

Rating: 8/10 ?


October 1, 2004
You know which historical figure has always creeped me out beyond all others? The Reverend Jim Jones - you know, that guy who founded The People's Temple in the late 1950s and then set up a freak-o city in South America, only to order his disciples into a ritual of mass suicide by chugging juice laced with cyanide. Yeah, that guy. He totally freaks me out more than Hitler, more than Stalin, more than George Bush. There is just something about a guy who invents a religion, proclaims himself Christ incarnate, and then gets his followers to do all sorts of insane things to themselves and each other. Okay, I guess the Mormons freak me out pretty intensely too, now that I think about it, but that's beside the point.

As far as bands go, the Krishna-rock outfits like Shelter always took the cake when it came to completely making my skin crawl. Until the Polyphonic Spree came along, that is.

Now, I know what you're saying, sitting there at your computer monitor gnawing on saltines - Clifton, dude, its just their act, man. They're not really trippie God loving utopian seekers. And I know that. Louise Gates didn't raise no buffoon. But even though its just an act, it is still creepy as hell. To put it bluntly, the Polyphonic Spree give me the willies.

The craziest thing is - and this is part of why they totally wig me out - their music is invigorating, filling me with a peace and warmth and love for my fellow man. For the completely bizarre nature of their appearance and operation and the degree to which it utterly repulses me, their songs are all warm, loving and inviting. And I think that is probably how the followers of Jim Jones and David Koresh and Joseph Smith initially reacted to the zealots who would eventually brainwash them. You can't tell me that anyone fell under David Koresh's spell at first sight. It was, rather, the subtle wooing of the message that enrapt them. And that is exactly how the Polyphonic Spree operates.

Together We're Heavy, which has been hyped by the media machine far beyond what anyone would have expected this time last year, begins with the anti-opener, "Section 11 (A Long Day Continues/We Sound Amazed)", a sprawling and introspective chamber ballad running eight and a half minutes. The song is much more of a whimper than a bang, but it works in exactly the same way that the cult leader feigning benign-ness and good intentions draws the meek into the cover of his dark cloak. Think of the guys from Grandaddy backed by the Salisbury Presbyterian Church Youth Choir covering Godspeed You Black Emperor! songs and you'll get the idea. Quirky, dynamic, ambient, uplifting and completely appropriate for accompanying an LSD trip.

You've probably heard "Section 12 (Hold Me Now)" blaring from sites all around the internet over the past few weeks, and the track, with its uplifting Sesame Street melodies and full-on choir action is much more indicative of the hallmark Polyphonic sound. With horns blaring and piano keys shuddering in a distinctly Elton John/1970s glory, its the perfect tune to run through the background of some shitty summer sitcom or one of those ultra-hip urban stylized car commercials.

While the Spree do a good job of remaining downright creepy by infusing their songs with lyrics and titles ("Section 14 (Ensure Your Reservation)") that, while certainly secular, sound like snippets from the Freedom Village Christian Forum, it is their music which will convert the truly appreciative. The ease with which Tim DeLaughter and company utilize pedal steel, horns, harps, and their 10-piece choir on lengthy tracks such as "Section 17 (Suitcase Calling)" is nothing if not fit for applause.

Together We're Heavy is a remarkably accomplished for the Polyphonic Spree's second outing, especially considering that their debut, The Beginning Stages Of..., was essentially a fleshed out demo tape released hastily. It is ambitious, charismatic, insanely counter-culture and almost assured to spawn some sort of weird traveling circus/cult that follows the Spree around on tour in a caravan of discarded school busses and tie-died vans. When some hotshot quasi-political director finally gets around to making Chuck Palahniuk's "Survivor" into a feature film, the Polyphonic Spree will provide the perfect backdrop for Tender Branson's (played by David Bowie) extravagant sermon/concert.

Reviewed by Clifton Gates
Currently sleeping on beaches in Costa Rica, Clifton Gates is an occasional contributor, editor, idea springboard and moral crutch to LAS magazine.

See other reviews by Clifton Gates

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