The Polyphonic Spree's 2001 debut, The Beginning Stages of...., propelled the choir-robed troupe onto the indie-music scene with all the subtlety of a secular Godspell performed at Wembley Stadium. Slightly tongue-in-cheek but never flat-out sarcastic toward their high-on-life, faux-holy shtick, head Spreeman Tim DeLaughter's gang of white-robed Texans packed arts festivals and theaters worldwide, becoming a must-see act for adroit hipsters.
On their second album, the members of the Spree appear in multicolored robes -- fitting, when you consider that this is a more dynamic, Technicolor offering than their comparatively straightforward debut. The instrumentation on Heavy is more ornate; the harmonies are more precise, spare and varied. It is an infinitely listenable album that gets off to a delicious start, highlighted by the second track, "Hold Me Now." And despite a somewhat lackluster midsection that finds DeLaughter seemingly attempting to emulate Wayne Coyne and the Dude of Life with a multitude of vocal solos, the Spree gets its mojo back late in the game with the multitiered harmonies of "Suitcase Calling."
But as DeLaughter & Co. try in earnest to shed the amateur-gimmick label that has dogged them since sway one, so too does the Spree lose much of the balls-out chutzpah that made its first album such a richly inspiring treat. A good portion of the satisfaction derived from that masterwork owed to the fact that the listener could easily envision himself onstage with the Spree. In fact, DeLaughter has oftentimes welcomed enthusiastic fans into his riser-supported flock, just like Jesus would have. That aesthetic is largely absent on Heavy, a solid album that, slight criticism aside, should do nothing to deter the curiosity of any listener seeking a glorious escape from the redundant rap-and-rock shite that continues to spew forth from the Big Apple and various coastal corners of America.