Try Not to Smile
Everyone’s favorite robed, multi-instrumental rock group from Dallas is back with their first album of new, original music in six years. This break is forgivable and inevitable; it’s hard enough to manage schedules for four people let alone twenty-four, but in the last year Tim DeLaughter and Co. have toured twice and put out a holiday album. This year, they went to fans for sourcing, promising that the funds raised would produce a live CD and DVD along with a tour and a new studio release. Yes, It’s True pays back part of the promise made in the pledge, and also satisfies the need for positive, upbeat indie-psychedelia Spree fans have waited patiently for.
“You Don’t Know Me” may be one of the most effective album openers in a while– three seconds of drums interrupted by a blast of horns and strings, and a delightful ’80s-esque woodwind riff. Next comes DeLaughter’s polished and upbeat melody, crafted specifically to deliver his affirmations and messages of self-love and self-realization. Even this track, which is more about being misunderstood, carries an undercurrent of upbeat optimism. “Hold Yourself Up” is similar in message an tone and would be corny if it was any other band, but the Spree makes it work, aided by a infectious refrain.
Not every song hits it out of the park quite as well. “Carefully Try” employs a little more of DeLaughter’s falsetto than is normally palatable, and the honky-tonk piano and Bowie-ish vocals in “Heart Talk” don’t quite work. The shouting chorus in “Popular By Design” feels jarring and out of place and doesn’t fit the lyrics. Those missteps, however, are far outweighed by the stronger moments, like the faux-devotional “Raise Your Hand” and the big and happy, “What Would You Do?”
Compared to previous releases, Yes, It’s True is a step in a safer direction, musically. It’s not as mellow as 2004’s Together We’re Heavy or as experimental as 2007’s The Fragile Army. It’s not as groundbreaking as their 2002 debut, but it doesn’t need to be. The Polyphonic Spree exist to remind us that music can be a communal experience, to be shared and enjoyed and leave listeners smiling more than they were before, and Yes, It’s True accomplishes that.