The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

‘The Fragile Army’ a step forward for the Spree

If today’s indie-rock scene is like religion, as some of us tend to regard it, the Polyphonic Spree is something like the charismatic, non-denominational Christian mega-church.

You know the one I’m talking about – it’s the oversized, overzealous church from the suburbs where devotees dance with arms outstretched, celestially compelled into various modes of frenzy.

Similarly, the Dallas-based Polyphonic Spree is discomfortingly fervent. The band couple each miniscule flutter of emotion with bombastic flourishes of zeal. Their new album, “The Fragile Army,” does little to invalidate this analogy. From the opening guitar peels of the first single “Running Away” to the profound wails on album-closer “The Championship,” the Spree lays on the drama so hard and unapologetically that their more giving listeners may find themselves in fits of divine tremors by the end of the album’s 46 minutes. The band’s dynamism is an exhausting technique, but to many Spree apostles, it’s not an altogether displeasing one.

Of course, drawing a religious comparison to the Polyphonic Spree is too easy. The group, captained by former Good Records manager Tim DeLaughter, consists of nearly 30 members, encompasses countless instruments and a kinetic choir of doo-wopping, swaying young women. To top this, the Spree’s infamous uniform – gaudy white robes with multicolored fringes – rarely fails to provoke furrowed brows and a single, inevitable query: “Is this band, like, a cult?”

Well, kind of. Although the Spree’s new release sees them trading in their robes for simpler (but equally sinister) black outfits, the answer to the Spree’s tired cult question remains unsettlingly unclear.

Religious analogies aside, the music of our city’s colossal indie coalition is also polarizing. Whether their uncompromising enthusiasm flies or flops is, and always has been, in the ear of the Spree’s beholder. Certainly many spectators at their packed CD release show last weekend buy completely into the band’s style of manic indiscretion; for hours, a vast sum of these diverse local fanatics jammed out and belted along, decidedly devoid of the cynical stoicism which plagues most hipster convergences.

The set at the CD release show prominently showcased songs from the Spree’s new album, and only a few from the group’s previous releases. For those of us in attendance, this was fortunate. “The Fragile Army” is indeed an improvement for the Spree, even if it is still inflicted with the band’s characteristic musical elephantitis.

The increased success of “The Fragile Army” owes itself to two key adjustments. Whereas past Spree efforts presented maddeningly small lyrical scopes – their first album exclusively featured songs about sunlight and daytime – the new album’s words hit harder, and sometimes even throw gut-punches, as in the sweetly contemplative “We Crawl.” The Spree also now offer a formerly absent fun side, one which well suits their explosive approach to songwriting. “Get Up and Go” is damn hard not to dance to, and the relentlessly catchy “Guaranteed Nightlite” provides the perfect summertime spirit-booster.

However, although there is fun to be had on this new release, the Polyphonic Spree’s best works remain in front of them. “The Fragile Army” is certainly a nice step forward, but it’s still buoyed by the band’s habitual appetite for unjustified grandiosity and their favor of lyrics that glide back and forth between the kind of simplicity that’s meaningful and the kind that’s vapid, or worse, self-indulgent.

So, if you like the Polyphonic Spree, add “The Fragile Army” to your collection. If you’re curious about them, here’s a great place to start.

Other than that, you may be better off waiting for the day the Spree reaches their full potential – they day they lose their empty, spare-nothing evangelism – before wholly converting to the church of the Polyphonic Spree.

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