The Polyphonic Spree has always had this air of overwhelming positivity. Even on their darkest album, 2007s The Fragile Army, despite the black jumpsuits and black eyeliner they came across as pensive, yet hopeful. I think that quality has always endeared me to them. Tim DeLaughter and Wayne Coyne are like the opposite sides of a very freaky coin. In the 90s they both followed a similar path(DeLaughter with Tripping Daisy and Coyne with the Lips), rattly, psychedelic pop rock. But something happened around 1999. Both bands had huge changes; Tripping Daisy lost an integral member to a drug overdose and the Flaming Lips had lost an integral member to the fear of seeing Steve Drozd die of a drug overdose, so the Lips re-invented themselves with The Soft Bulletin and Tripping Daisy became The Polyphonic Spree. But the paths DeLaughter and Coyne took quicky diverged. Coyne became this sort of freaky, psychotic ring leader to the scariest psychedelic circus you’ve ever seen and DeLaughter became the leader of a sheet-wearing 30 plus collective of like-minded musicians spreading a message of “we can do it together, man”. The Lips -Coyne in-particular- have increasingly become a parody of what we once loved about them. The Polyphonic Spree and DeLaughter on the other hand have brought their message more internally, and in turn have made this rock n’ roll collective more personal and intimate all the while not giving up the “love-in” vibe that made them so special in the beginning. Yes, It’s True is their tightest collection of songs yet, proving DeLaughter to be a survivor and a man that can evolve while still retaining who he has always been; a sensitive songwriter with plenty of heart to share.
“You Don’t Know Me” is the biggest indication that The Polyphonic Spree felt a need to mix things up a bit. It’s an 80s throwback with synths, handclaps, horns, and a slightly menacing waver in the background that reminds one of Talk Talk’s heyday. “Popular By Design” is another big 80s-sounding song with a great horn section filling in where guitars might’ve overfilled the track. DeLaughter sounds amazing on this track, with the Spree coming in for a crowd shout chorus that works perfectly for this track. “You know that I know you’re popular by design/you know that I know you’re wonderful in the light” the Spree shout as that big 80s production sound carries it along on a cloud of optimism. “You’re Golden” is one of those songs that grabs you in the gut and doesn’t let go. Lilting piano line and strings drape the background like clouds. “Bear in mind/you’re golden/caught up in my mind/you’ve stolen/my heart”. It’s one of those tracks that makes you think that folks need to concentrate more on the stellar songwriting going on within this collective and not so much the sheets and flowers in hair. I know it’s distracting, but one listen to this beautiful pop track and everything should come into beautiful lighted focus. “Heart Talk” is another standout pop track. It’s very playful and big and full of sunny day optimism.
Song after song, Yes, It’s True shows a new, refrained side to The Polyphonic Spree and their leader Tim DeLaughter. While not being overtly “big” sounding, they still get their point across. That point is that together they are still indeed heavy, but it’s a heft easily carried in your head and heart.