This Polyphonic Spree article was written by David Lowes, a GIGsoup contributor
“Christmas is the time of year when people of all faiths come together and worship Santa”. – Bart Simpson, The Simpsons
It may not have the irony as Bart’s famous (infamous?) description of Christmas has, but The Polyphonic Spree certainly do their damnedest to make a cover album their own.
Holidaydream was released in 2013 and went a little under the radar. Why? Certainly after a few listens you realise it’s a perfectly serviceable album: a little bit uninspired, but it’s an Xmas album that hasn’t been hackneyed!
The album is full of covers, bookended by two original Tim DeLaughter creations. Unfortunately it chops and changes too often and offers no musical consistency to be labelled a ‘classic’, and rarely decides on which direction it wants to take.
On the one hand, it seems to want to just belt out Xmas standards and fill us with a nice, cosy Xmas feel. Songs like Silent Night and It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year are given the treatment and they are, technically, very well done. But it doesn’t sound as though his heart is in.
Then on the other hand, you get covers of songs that try and affirm the spirit of goodwill and charity. Pieces like Silver Bells well convey the idea that Xmas is much more than a holiday. DeLaughter gives them themes of a dark and brooding nature (mental health crops up a few times for example). Again, the musicality of the songs is excellent, you can’t fault the vocals or the foreboding arrangements, but again you feel DeLaughter isn’t giving his all to the project.
Most of content suffers from the same problem: tracks start off slow and then end in a fantastic crescendo. Alas, it means that you’re overwhelming thought is ‘that’s great, I’m going to listen to that again!’, then you discover that you’ve got to wade through a lot of preamble to get there.
However, occasionally, very occasionally, you get a song so good that it justifies an entire album – the cover of Happy Xmas (War Is Over) is just one of those songs. It doesn’t wait to soar like the rest of album, it ends fantastically and starts in the same vein.
Sure, this is a slightly laboured album, but you should own it – if only for the brilliant John Lennon cover.