A few days ago, seems like weeks now, I saw the Spree cast their magical spell over Glastonbury from the Pyramid stage in the blazing sun. If there ever was a band that suited the special mood of that festival it's them. They cavorted on stage and cajoled the crown with the evangelical glee and infectious spirit. Resplendent in their matching scarlet robes and huge matching smiles they won over several thousand willing converts.
This album, a reissue of their debut, has an additional 4 alternate versions of their most uplifting numbers and an accompanying DVD that features recent concert footage and lots of little gems. If you are unaware of what the Polyphonic Spree sound like then I will start by describing them as a kind of gospel meets alt.country, taking in rock and pop along the way. They construct brilliantly complex songs with brilliantly simple lyrics that blend into songs with a force of personality that takes it's grip on you instantly and would have you sending money to their P.O. Box number. The other thing you should know is that they are over 24 of them complete with a choir and brass section to accompany the keyboards, guitars, bass and harp. All of the songs here are big, theatrical and joyous hymns to no particular faith and only the stoniest of hearts could ever hope to deny them.
One of the best value festival bands ever to grace the circuit have dates galore, along with a new single, to support their sixth album 'Phantom Power'. The album starts with a silky vocal sample from 'Wendy and Bonnie'* and developing into an easygoing and lyrically strange (including the curious “I’m a minger, you’re a minger too, so come on minger, I want to ming with you”) folk rock number. There are some issue songs like 'The Piccolo Snare' (An anti war song, but not Iraq specific, concentrating instead on the devastation left after all wars) and 'Bleed Forever' (A touching and soulful number about the effect of Chernobyl fall out on North Wales. They have a high leukaemia rate in children and are still unable to sell some of their livestock as a result) that are imaginative and thought provoking. These are alongside the summery and sweet sounding tale of youthful fearlessness and historical lessons learnt of 'Liberty Belle' and party tunes like 'Venus & Serena'. The Furrys turn their hand to rock excess for ‘Out Of Control’. They turn out to be surprisingly good at it in fact and recreate a classic heavy metal vibe. There is a feeling of classic folk rock running throughout 'Phantom Power' which is comforting in its familiarity; There is also a lot of experimentation that ensures the album never sounds stale. For instance, in 'Slow Lane' we find sounds akin to fragmented calliope samples meeting drum machines and early house music squelches which slowly gain depth, grow guitars and become what is a fantastic closer to the album. To ensure you hear all of this in as much depth and detail as possible 'Phantom Power' is being simultaneously released on CD (in 5.1 stereo surround no less!) and on DVD.
The first single from 'Phantom Power' is 'Golden Retriever’; an old style British blues rock number with space rock frills. As you would expect, it has a massive sing-a-long factor that works well alongside its war drums and classic heavy blues riffing.
* I have no idea who they are either but will say that they are of fine voice.