“Big” has always been the operative word in The Polyphonic Spree’s vocabulary. From the flowing robes and ornate orchestration down to the sheer size of the 22-member collective, everything about the band boils down to pure bombast, a quality that has helped it emerge as perhaps the most curious band orbiting the pop stratosphere.
But Yes, It’s True, the Spree’s fourth proper full-length and first since 2007’s The Fragile Army, finds the band confronting an unavoidable reality: Its sonic sprawl could only expand so much before it was eventually bound to recede a bit. And this record finds the band coming back down to Earth. The multi-layered chamber pop is still there, as are the Tony Robbins-like positive affirmations, but this time out the spectacle fits the mold of something a bit more palatable and digestible. “You Don’t Know Me” opens the record with a flute-accented blast of airy guitar-pop, while frontman Tim DeLaughter preaches from on high about the virtues of being true to oneself (“There’s always more to you than there are of them,” he sings). The rest of the tracks are similarly wrapped in a tight sonic package, from the breezy, baroque chamber pop of “You’re Golden” to the glossy power pop of “What Would You Do?”
Still, the band doesn’t tilt its hand too heavily toward convention. Even as it veers a bit more to the middle, Yes, It’s True does so without sacrificing the Spree’s flare for the grandiose. ”Popular By Design” still makes good use of its expansive chorus of background singers, while ”Carefully Try,” with its rolling timpani and lush orchestration, helps give things an appropriately soaring feel. Lyrically, DeLaughter isn’t above getting weird and abstract, whether he’s musing about aquatic life on “Let Them Be” or just going nuts with his high-on-life musical worldview.
The approach is a much more centered one, but even in moderation, The Polyphonic Spree is still a band too wired with oddball energy to completely play it straight. Even with the group’s slight retraction, it’s that madcap sense of wonder and lofty ambition that helps keep Yes, It’s True healthily afloat.