In the lead-up to the release of The Fragile Army, much was made about The Polyphonic Spree ditching their scary, cultish white robes in favor of scary-in-a-different-way, cultish black-and-red fatigues. Could this macabre new look, combined with ongoing label woes, signal a shift in the Spree's relentlessly hopeful outlook?
Of course not. Army is just as hands-to-the-sky jubilant as its predecessors, though with a new note of urgency injected into the usual optimism. A group as physically and thematically huge as the Spree can't help but be sonically imposing, and Army delivers typically confetti-strewn numbers like "Running Away" and "Get Up And Go." Such hugeness can be either exhilarating or tiresome, depending on the listener's capacity for joyful crescendos and enthusiastic shouting. But the album's most intriguing moments come when the church-choir antics are scaled back in favor of some introspection (well, as much introspection as a 24-plus-member orchestral outfit can manage). Songs like the politically charged title track confirm that there's more to the Spree than sugar-addled prancing; after all, even the sunniest optimism can't exist without an awareness of the forces that threaten it.