“You Don’t Know Me” opens the record with a flute-accented blast of airy guitar-pop, while frontman Tim DeLaughter preaches from on high about the virtues of being true to oneself (“There’s always more to you than there are of them,” he sings). The rest of the tracks are similarly wrapped in a tight sonic package, from the breezy, baroque chamber pop of “You’re Golden” to the glossy power pop of “What Would You Do?”
Still, the band doesn’t tilt its hand too heavily toward convention. Even as it veers a bit more to the middle, Yes, It’s True does so without sacrificing the Spree’s flare for the grandiose. ”Popular By Design” still makes good use of its expansive chorus of background singers, while ”Carefully Try,” with its rolling timpani and lush orchestration, helps give things an appropriately soaring feel. Lyrically, DeLaughter isn’t above getting weird and abstract, whether he’s musing about aquatic life on “Let Them Be” or just going nuts with his high-on-life musical worldview.
The approach is a much more centered one, but even in moderation, The Polyphonic Spree is still a band too wired with oddball energy to completely play it straight. Even with the group’s slight retraction, it’s that madcap sense of wonder and lofty ambition that helps keep Yes, It’s True healthily afloat.
A tendency to lean more heavily than before on grand theatricality—possibly a hangover from their recent reworking of The Rocky Horror Picture Show—only accentuates the boundless optimism of their uplifting sun-dappled pop. When it works well, as it does on "Carefully Try" or "Your Golden," they create musical vignettes that tread the line between bittersweet and upbeat. When it falters, it sees them dip into an irritating self-parody, one which undermines their soaring harmonies by mining well-trodden ground; rampant horns and hand claps are a weary accompaniment to Delaughter's strained aphorisms on tracks such as "What Would You Do?" Like the original cast recording of a musical yet to be staged—and undoubtedly they must be quite the experience live-Yes, It's True has interesting moments, but ultimately makes for an insubstantial and at times deeply vapid experience.