Sound Advice 

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The Polyphonic Spree

The Fragile Army


Sounds like: An indie rock musical we'll never see

Short take: The Spree has arrived

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Let's be honest: From a distance, The Polyphonic Spree may seem interesting a cult-like group of pop-music nuts creating hippie, mushroom-tripping anthems. But in its first two albums, jumping the divide between compelling and lackluster had proven to be too much for the band, which includes a full choir. Apparently, though, the gang got the memo for The Fragile Army, which at once creates a sense of excitement and wall-of-sound magnificence. The album kicks into high gear early with the uplifting "Running Away" (which features a breezy and insatiable Broken Social Scene vibe) and scores with the provocative "Overblow Your Nest" and the inspiring "The Championship." The Fragile Army encapsulates the creative spirit of and intended results for the Dallas-based outfit. John Benson

Art Brut

It's a Bit Complicated


Sounds like: The Rakes meet a funnier The Hold Steady

Short take: Complicated? No, just great

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Apparently, the British mock the American blogosphere's obsession with Art Brut, which is viewed largely as a joke back at home across the pond. Maybe they just don't get it; Art Brut's second full-length release, It's a Bit Complicated, is one of the best discs of 2007. Lead singer Eddie Argos' snarky, sung-spoke lyrics about 20-something malaise are both charming and hilarious, and the escalating and teasing pop-rock guitar riffs channel senses of both anticipation and exhuberance on top of the underlying post-punk beats and bass lines. The whole album's money in the bank, but there still are a few standouts: the dance-crazy "Direct Hit," the inspiring "Post Soothing Out" and "Nag Nag Nag Nag," which repeats a lyric that might best describe this entire disc: "a record collection reduced to a mixtape." Pete Freedman

Queens of the Stone Age

Era Vulgaris


Sounds like: A soundtrack for the after-after-after party

Short take: Another go-with-the-flow album for Homme and Co.

Earlier this decade, when Queens of the Stone Age first emerged, after a few years in relative stoner rock obscurity, they seemed poised for rock stardom. Instead, Josh Homme's California band turned out to be more interested in exploring the dark margins of rock. Era Vulgaris confirms that the act's rally cry is, indeed, more about creating expressive and interesting albums with occasional pockets of glory. The guitar-blazing end to "Suture Up Your Future" qualifies for such a moment, as does the metallic hook to "Sick, Sick, Sick," which is the closest thing to an anthem on the album. While there's nothing vulgar as in repulsive or embarrassing found on the 11-track Era Vulgaris, you can't help but feel that Homme has more to offer. John Benson


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