Who wins in a cage match — Danielson Famile, I’m From Barcelona, or the Polyphonic Spree? Daniel has the biggest reason to fight: Tim DeLaughter nabbed dude?s choral robe idea, landed car commercial placement, etc. On the other hand, I’m From Barcelona are Swedish (sneaky), include five more members than the Spree, sport adventurous facial hair and glasses, and manage to drag 29 folks around without always sounding like 29 folks — it’s that sleek, quick-like-a-butterfly thing. Even without the extra person power, the Polyphonic Spree would be pretty easy to knock out: Anything but fragile, the titanic Texans disregard restraint in favor of what has by now become a predictable, easily telegraphed, at time self-parodying crowded house.
Maybe that?s why The Fragile Army?s best moments happen when the group drops out, allowing DeLaughter to center himself, momentarily lonesome, beneath the multi-colored spotlight. Easy enough to fix then: More rock, less rock opera, right? Well, problem is when DeLaughter doesn?t have his posse unleashing that lovely tone color he sounds too much like Wayne Coyne. That’s always been present, but here it gets kinda eerie; try comparing “Overblow Your Nest” to “A Spoonful Weighs A Ton” or “Younger Yesterday” to “Race For The Prize (Remix)” and just sorta mumble “Waitin’ for a Superman” here/there. Temporarily considering Polyphonic Spree’s two major components separately raises another question: Instead of buying their records, why not listen to The Soft Bulletin with Danielson blasting in the next room? (We’re not entirely complaining: “Get Up And Go” sounds like a Broadway cast doing Hot Hot Heat ? we prefer Lips rips to that.)
Nitpicking aside, we dig how the album sounds — the opening fizz of “Together We’re Heavy”/”Running Away” can sends shivers and there’s something undeniably fantastic about people singing and shouting en masse (granted, we could also get that at a Mets game). Also, Coyne imitator complaints aside, DeLaughter’s fleeting moments of solo-seeming doubt and mortality chase the Jim Jones sugar with needed doses of melancholia. In “Younger Yesterday,” he sings, “I was younger yesterday / and I’m feeling not so great.” Hate to say it, but that?s seriously good news!
The Fragile Army is out 6/19 on TVT.