Apparently we live in a heathen society. Morals are low, crime is high and nobody goes to church any more. The concept of a structured belief system seems an outdated anachronism, but most of us aren’t self-sufficient enough to have no need for spirituality.

All right-thinking people need a little beauty in their lives, and Polyphonic Spree are the best example yet of religious music for people who don’t believe in God. The media have so far focused on the implication that the Spree are some kind of genuine cult; 24 members and a whiff of faith so they must be, right?

According to frontman Tim DeLaughter, who assembled the band from the ashes of Texan psychedelic punks Tripping Daisy, the band wears white robes on stage because it would be distracting to audiences were they all in their street clothes. It’s hard to dispute the visual effect and Goddish implications, but the charisma of this self-titled ‘choral symphonic pop band’ is so overwhelming they transform the dark and dingy Concorde into Brighton’s own little Westminster Cathedral.

The amount of energy emitting from the stage is phenomenal. DeLaughter stands Messiah-like on the front pew, arms raised with joy as the rest of the band are off on their own trip — dancing, smiling, waving and taking pictures of the audience. Imagine the Flaming Lips with 24 Wayne Coynes and you are close to capturing the Spree’s astonishing magnetism.

Right now being in this band looks like the best job on earth. Every member of the band is fantastic to watch, but special mention must be given to Andrew Tinker, the over-excitable French horn player who helps whip the normally cynical Brighton crowd into a frenzy. The atmosphere begins to resemble the scene in the Blues Brothers where a once cynical John Belushi sees the light and starts cartwheeling in the aisles — the largely young and fashionable audience cast off the shackles of self-consciousness and clap along with similarly beatific smiles. Hopefully the band has some inkling of quite how unusual it is for a Brighton crowd to be this unconcerned with looking cool.

The most obvious musical comparison in terms of sheer majesty and depth of sound is Spiritualized, but Jason Pierce’s self-obsessed and introspective heartbreak is the polar opposite to the Spree’s uncomplicated themes of Love, the Sun and Happiness. DeLaughter’s between song proclamations that "You can be whatever you want to be!" and "If you want something enough it will happen!" would sound like Camembert in the hands of lesser mortals but he is so unequivocally genuine all you can do is smile and believe him.

One of the highlights of the 90-odd minute set is the medley of recent singles ‘Hanging Around’ and ‘Soldier Girl’; deceptively simple yet two of the catchiest pop tunes of the year. The band rarely pauses for breath, linking their ‘proper’ songs with seemingly free-form segments that veer close to dodgy prog territory but luckily never quite get there, and a lot of new songs, which sound just as fabulous as the debut LP.

Polyphonic Spree are fabulously uncool. Much like the Christian Union kids at school that didn’t care how much you took the piss because they had Jesus in their lives, this band seem capable of surviving anything because of their obvious and unshakable sense of self-belief.

They may not appeal to everyone; one person’s joyous majesty is another’s twee happy-clappy nonsense. But if you feel your heart soar whilst listening to the sun-kissed harmonies of the Beach Boys, or weep at the pure emotional breakdown of Spiritualized then this could be the band you have been waiting for. Only the most cold-hearted and cynical individuals could resist.












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Commenting On: Brighton Concorde, 28/9/2002 - Polyphonic Spree








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