Local pop-choral extravaganza ditch the hippie garb and deploy their most adventurous effort
The Polyphonic Spree
“The Fragile Army”
Dallas’ Polyphonic Spree have always been impossibly audacious. Happy to impress audiences by sheer spectacle, the 20-plus-member ensemble has been anything but subtle over their now three-year run. Maligned by the hipsterati for their optimistic lyrics and bombastic orchestral arrangements, songwriter Tim DeLaughter and his gay, bi and straight musical conspirators earned enough props for ambition to make up for any indulgent tendencies.
Their first two albums essentially captured the Spree’s thrilling live performances. But “The Fragile Army” is the first release that feels like a bona fide studio album. Since image is big part of the Spree’s appeal, “The Fragile Army” marks a noticeable renovation: Gone are the group’s trademark church-choir garb. The band now sports sharp, black military uniforms, complete with stitched-in red crosses and white hearts.
In spite of their usually muddled imagery, DeLaughter’s Spree have always possessed a sunny disposition. “The Fragile Army” has them flirting with post-9/11 angst. Tracks like the title song and the Bowie-tinged “Get Up and Go” find the group more riled up than blissed out.
Where previous Spree songs have seemed like extended instrumental jams draped over repeated vocal choruses, tracks on “Fragile Army” are concise and catchy. It’s unlikely that this band could have written numbers like the tight and poppy “Guaranteed Lifestyle” or the lightly tender “We Crawl” back in 2004.
This is not to say that the Spree have completely abandoned their feel-good symphonic blasts. Fans of hippie “hallelujah choruses” still have numbers like the record opener, “Running Away.” And for the band’s usual slow brew of drama, brass and timpani, there are the closing tracks, “Overblow Your Nest” and “The Championship,”
But it’s been long since time that this impressive live act finally captured its true spirit not just their sound to disc. This release might give non-believers a taste of what Texans have been bragging about. “Fragile Army” is a step forward for the ambitious and evolving act.
GAY TROUBADOURS UNITE
It’s a double bill of indie-queer songmanship. Locals Kris Landherr (who recently launched Fagapalooza at the Round-Up Saloon) joins synth prince Patrick Boothe at the Opening Bell coffeehouse on Wednesday.
Landherr will perform songs from his “Will Rastle For Food” album. Boothe will unveil material he’s crafting for an upcoming disc.
Maybe the crowd can coax both song men for a rousing sing-a-long to Landherr’s catchy ditty, “I’m a Fag.”
Opening Bell Coffee, basement level at SouthSide on Lamar, 1409 South Lamar St. #012. Landherr at 8 p.m., Boothe at 9 p.m. Free. 214-565-0383.
BANDMATES AT MUDDY WATERS
Dallas lovely lesbian guitar group Bandmates jam out at Muddy Waters on Saturday.
Partners Susan Carson and Kimberly Cody craft a laid-back, slowcore sound that harkens back to that halcyon era of ’80s college rock before digital audio, drum sampling and Vocoders. Cody’s gentle vocal styling resembles Hope Sandoval from Mazzy Star only without such a sedative timbre. When Carson isn’t complimenting Cody on backup vocals, she’s switching between bass and a sublime mid-’60s Rickenbacker 324.
They wrote their first song in a Jacuzzi. And just try to stop them from performing their sapphic version of Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California.”
Muddy Waters, 1518 Greenville Ave. July 14 at 9:30 p.m. Free. 214-823-1518.
GIRL IN COMA SKIPPING DALLAS
Whatever you do, don’t check the band’s Web site, which is apparently incorrect. San Antonio’s mega-cool trio Girl in A Coma featuring lesbian bassist Jenn Alva is off the Dallas leg of the Vans Warped Tour, which stops at Smirnoff Music Center on Saturday. According to the band’s publicist, Girl in a Coma is playing San Antonio on Friday and Houston on Sunday, but they’re skipping Big D. Too bad. They’re the coolest rock band to ever hire transsexual superstar Amanda Lepore, who lip-synched better than Marylyn Monroe in the group’s video for “Road to Home.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 13, 2007