Rather than wallow in the kind of self-destructive nihilism that tends to accompany survivor's guilt, former Tripping Daisy singer Tim DeLaughter seeks an alternative path, coping with the overdose of a longtime bandmate by surrounding himself with a couple dozen friends and a gigantic feel-good sound he calls "choral symphonic pop." Picture the lush orchestral arrangements of latter-day
Beatles, the starry-eyed psychedelia of the Flaming Lips, and the sanguine musical theater of Godspell.
Toss in an old-fashioned dose of Texas-size evangelism -- complete with cultish white robes for both choir and instrumentalists -- and you've got the Polyphonic Spree.
Absent individual song titles or a lyric sheet, the ensemble's enigmatic CD debut, The Beginning Stages of ..., plays like an extended group hug from a band of melodic mourners who mean to cheer your blues away. Colorful strings, keys, horns, and percussion buoy the vocalists' spirited sing-alongs with triumphant harmonies and dynamic crescendos (think thunderous timpani and splashy cymbals). Winged melodies inspire, with maxims like "Hey, it's the sun and it makes me shine!" and, on another track, "Follow the day and reach for the sun!" As DeLaughter testifies toward the end of the disc, "A love like this keeps us warm." And music routs the darkness.