The Polyphonic Spree are back! It sounds like it’s been a trying few years for the Spree – not the cheapest band to run, obviously – and there hasn’t been a proper studio album since 2007’s The Fragile Army. But they’re touring – I saw them myself, performing the Rocky Horror soundtrack plus a set of their own songs on Halloween – and they’ve just announced that their Kickstarter project has reached its target, which means we’ll be getting a live album and DVD called You + Me, as well as the next studio album sometime in the spring of 2013. And they can tour. All of this is fantastic news, but there’s also the small matter of this new album, Holidaydream.
The Spree perform a Christmas show every year and it’s not the first time they’ve recorded Christmas songs – there’s a version of ‘Happy Xmas (Was is Over)’ on the ‘Two Thousand Places’ single. So this should be a perfect match even if they weren’t already the living embodiment of Xmassiness. But it could still be a bit mawkish, or cheesy… I mean, who can get away with a whole album of Christmas songs these days?
Thankfully the Spree are – and I mean this in the best sense of the word – freaks. Their world isn’t like ours, and it’s full of strange and wonderful things. As a result this isn’t an ordinary Christmas album. Alongside the jolly songs (‘Working Elf’s Theme’, whistling and all) and the straight but rather sad readings of the standards (‘Winter Wonderland’ and ‘Chestnuts roasting…’, all flute and harp), we get a few strange little tracks (‘Silent Night’ and ‘Holidaydream’ itself), and the Spree full-on, not just on Lennon’s ‘Happy Xmas’ but also the marvellous ‘Silver Bells’, assisted by The School of Seven Bells. Benjamin Curtis was of course the drummer for Tripping Daisy before he formed Secret Machines and then Seven Bells, and so this is him catching up with his ex-bandmates… and even if it’s a cover, ‘Silver Bells’ (in its full version, with the reprise) is the best Spree song we’ve had for a long time.
The Spree have an advent calendar of videos from this album. I think this, the reprise of ‘Silver Bells’, is the best one that you can see right now. If you’re still not in the seasonal mood by the 2 minute mark, go away and don’t come back until the 27th or so.
But this – ‘Carol of the Drum (Little Drummer Boy)’ – is also great. Why can’t all videos be this good, eh?
For all the videos in the ’13 Days of Polyphonic Xmas’ series, go here. Band page here. The record is available from all good stores, like this, and some that don’t pay as much tax as they might. And this is Volume 1, so let’s hope there’s one every year…