Polyphonic Spree : Edinburgh Queen’s Hall

Whatever they are, they're amazing

Who the hell are The Polyphonic Spree? An indie-art prank? An out of control day-release program? A tour manager’s logistical nightmare? After a series of the most bewildering festival performances since Daphne and Celeste thought ‘doing’ Reading and Leeds might be a good idea, we didn’t seem to be any the wiser. It seems like its time for them to decide what they want to be – The Hare Krishna Jackson Twenty-Five, or a bunch of chancers after notoriety.

Tonight, however, on the first night of this new recruitment drive, we want answers. And sure enough, when they bound onstage and bring us into their world with the wonderful melodic chant of ‘Have A Day’, they actually promise us [I]”Soon, you’ll find the answer”[/I]. What begins as a lilting nursery rhyme ends up as a barmy ray of mad musical sunshine that lights Edinburgh up like a fireworks display. The band wear smiles as wide as the Grand Canyon, and it begins to dawn that the cassocks, the 25 members and the freakishly permanent sunny disposition – the sun follows this band everywhere – are by far the least interesting things about The Polyphonic Spree.

During the “Happy Happy Joy Joy” double whammy of ‘Hanging Around’ and ‘Soldier Girl’ there is dancing in the stalls, the hugging of strangers and a general atmosphere closer to an E’d up rave than a symphonic pop orchestra. By the time of ‘2000 Places’ we’ve been converted to whatever mad agenda they’re preaching. You see, to watch them and not smile is a physical impossibility – rather like watching Radiohead and not contemplating, like, capitalism and uh, stuff.

So who are The Polyphonic Spree? Buggered if we know. Buggered if we care. Whatever they are, they’re amazing. So as NME dances home, preparing to assault the bed-sheets with scissors and join the DeLaughter family circus, we’ll leave doubters with this one thought: Don’t laugh. You’re next.

Barry Nicolson