Justin Vernon’s third Bon Iver album is a weird and wonderful thing
Polyphonic Spree : London Shepherds Bush Empire
All things bright and beautiful...
wrong. Think about it: in any other universe 23
M OR-obsessed mung-bean munchers from America's Baptist belt making music about how great life is would be given a wide fucking berth. It's vegetarian, Guardian-reading, BBC4-watching bollocks. It's songs about the sun
and your soul and joy delivered by a smug, ridiculously self-assured and even more ridiculously tanned Texan 'messiah'. The musical equivalent of Patrick Swayze's self-righteous preacherman in 'Donnie Darko'. In short The Polyphonic Spree are one of the downright wrongest bands on the planet.
Yet, despite NME being the biggest curmudgeon in the building tonight by quite a long way, even we realise the
Spree in their full pomp are near unparalleled. Because
what do you usually get for tonight's ticket price? You get
four dishevelled blokes from the northwest playing loads
of average songs until they reach their sole proper hit, which is usually a load of whimpering about a girl who once had
the audacity to break their heart.
But with Polyphonic Spree you get every single penny of your money's worth. You get an overblown, theatrical, cassock-clad 46-legged Polyphoniottomous rampaging through the venue. Tonight starts with a bell-ringing town
crier bellowing the title of the new Spree album, 'Together We're Heavy', by way of introducing the band. Then we
get Theremins, harps, a choreographed choir, and a huge canvas backdrop emblazoned with the word 'HOPE'.
At their best tonight, the Spree (clad in new assorted rainbow-coloured clothes) take a reluctant individualistic
self-conscious crowd and turn it into a something not
a million miles away from Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. 'Soldier Girl' and 'Sun' make the audience beam and gurn like pillheads watching the sunrise from Glastonbury's stone circle.
But they don't have it all their own way. At full blast the Spree are brilliant, audacious, uplifting. But no-one can keep this up for a full show and the dips are quite dramatic. Some of the new album showcased tonight - such as 'Diamonds', 'When The Fool Becomes A King' and 'Suitcase Calling' (collective length: 25 minutes) - don't just suffer through a lack of familiarity, but because they're simply not as good as the big numbers off 'The Beginning Stages Of…'. And they're way, way too long. However, when things go a bit awry, a 'Hanging Around' or live favourite 'Two Thousand Places' bring it all back.
It would take would take a very grumpy person not to enjoy the Polyphonic Spree live experience. But it'd take someone even more twisted to truly worship them.
With their bigger and better second album, London-based indie/dance band Boxed In have earned their breakout moment
Islamic mythology meets the horror of war in this claustrophobic, low-budget spine-tingler
California’s coolest lift their usual murk on a free-spirited, adventurous third album at odds with its ‘mature’ description
The New York new wave reprobates’ debut delivers instant gratification via boisterous choruses and loveable melodies