The Polyphonic Spree‘s new video Crawl is worth a watch. It’s an intimate look at the band and frontman Tim DeLaughter, who has more charisma in his little finger than [insert lame comparison into this cliché here].
Watching Tim from his Tripping Daisy days (I cannot stress enough that the albums I Am an Elastic Firecracker and Jesus Hits Like an Atom Bomb are your listening homework if you don’t know them already but are even remotely into the Spree or The Flaming Lips) through The Beginning Stages of… and into worldwide success with the Spree, you can’t help but sense that he consistently does the dangerous work of exposing his soul to the world. That must be necessary to make music so expansive and touching. He always projects genuine elation, but the elation seemingly must be ripped out of (his) pain and (our) apathy to be sustained. I think this makes him one of the hardest working men in music.
At Tripping Daisy and Spree shows, Tim always seems to be standing on the monitors, surrounded by something. Sometimes it’s props like bubbles or plastic bits from a fake snow machine. But sometimes it’s light doing interesting things in concert with the sound, such as a flickering fluorescent bulb or a sunbeam breaking through the dreary clouds during a raucous version of It’s the Sun (both shows in Denton, Texas, at two very different venues).
I find the Spree’s recordings difficult to listen to since I know how bitchin’ they are live. In fact, it’s safe to say I like the Spree best at their margins, out of the studio doin’ their own funky thing. At the end of one show, they allowed the harpist time to perform a full song solo, and it was truly fulfilling in a basic sort of way, like eating bread. The improv moments during shows are some of the most fun bits, like when Tim broke spontaneously into a Tripping Daisy chorus while the rest of the band waited patiently. And their covers are fierce. Grab Nirvana’s Lithium, The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s LHCB, and Wig in a Box here at Deaf Indie Elephants. You can buy covers of Lithium, Tripping Daisy’s Sonic Bloom, and The Psychedelic Furs’ Love My Way on the EP Wait. And I always love a little Ride Captain Ride.
Side note about the rockin‘ movie (and soundtrack) Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The Spree’s cover of Wig in a Box appears on a benefit album of the same name, along with other covers (by Bob Mould, The Breeders, Frank Black, Sleater-Kinney, Spoon, Ben Folds, and voice by Stephen Colbert long before I knew who he was) of Hedwig songs such as Rufus Wainwright’s pleasant rendition of The Origin of Love.
Tim does an interview with You Ain’t No Picasso, where he talks about his life philosophy and also a subject dear to my heart, albums: “I love making albums. We are in a world of singles and more people are interested in picking little jewels off the record. But for me as an artist, to have my creative worth and feel worthy, it’s got to be more of a concept. It’s got to work all together as one unit in one listen.” And for me as a listener, I can’t grow love for artists or their bodies of work via singles or mp3s on shuffle. Only albums will do.