The titles on Together We're Heavy, the second album from The Polyphonic Spree, are numbered from 11 to 20, continuing from the first ten sections of the band's debut, The Beginning Stages of... Despite the titling, however, things couldn't be more different on this sophomore effort.
The Spree's debut was originally recorded as a demo, and didn't feature many of the current 21 group members. Despite the incompleteness, the demo was an impressive disc full of energy and sweet pop -- aside from that 36-minute avant garde track, of course.
With Together We're Heavy, however, frontman Tim DeLaughter tries to create the tight disc of bombast that he had in mind for The Beginning Stages of... He achieves that grand vision on some of Together We're Heavy's best tracks, but the disc is ultimately too scattershot. Despite being made without the full band, The Beginning Stages of... worked with a strong base of nine solid pop songs. Together We're Heavy lacks that base.
Track 2 on the album, "Section 12: Hold Me Now," is a perfect way to access the Spree at their best. Quirky, fast and sweet, the lyrics are laughable on paper, but with DeLaughter and his backing group, you'll be rushing to put the track on that mix tape you're making for the girl in Intro to Marketing.
When the band tries to slow the proceedings down, though, the simple, cheery lyrics suffer, and DeLaughter comes off as a wannabe Wayne Coyne. In fact, the dirty, loud bassline on the opening track, "Section 11: A Long Day Continues/We Sound Amazed," is ripped straight from a Flaming Lips album.
Despite its slow points, Together We're Heavy is a solid effort from a band who have managed to become more than just a gimmick. DeLaughter turns his large group into a useful, diverse act, not a church choir. With a more concise, quicker approach, The Polyphonic Spree may have their best work still ahead of them.