Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Album Review: Phish- Fuego

*** out of *****
Every time the gods of the jamband scene put out a new studio album there is usually some distinct spin around it. Drummer Jon Fishman has been quoted that there is a more encompassing band approach when it comes to Fuego, but in a recent interview Anastasio revealed the process the band tested out for this release:    
Anastasio says the writing process behind the new songs almost resembles an academic exercise: The members would sit in a room with writing pads, all looking at a random photo they'd pulled from the Internet, and had five minutes to write down whatever came to them.

"And then a bell would go off," Anastasio explains. "Each person would read to the other three what they had written. If there were certain lines that really resonated with the other three, we would put them on a fifth pad — until they were all intermingled and we couldn't remember who had written what."
In the end, what is another odd experiment falls clearly into the category of just another Phish studio disk whose songs will probably work better live. Fans will find pulses and pluses to buzz around until the definitive version materializes on stage, while outsiders will simply shrug. 

The band goes through their normal steps which would seem bizarre or spastic for other groups, the title track is a perfect example. Oddball found-poem lyrics based on Vlad the Impaler, guilty people, angels blowing horns and coffee mugs that do nothing to link the various parts of the song. Two and half minutes in the track kicks into an upbeat disco/jazz break with keyboard layers and drum skittering, ebbing and flowing through various parts before ending on a unresolved note after 9 minutes.  

One thing that is resolved is the gorgeous production and sound on Fuego. Working with Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd) the band has gotten incredibly lush sounds and layers of instrumentation out of their Barn studio. The deep rhythms and melodic ooh's and ahh's on the Page McConnell written "Halfway to the Moon" sound gorgeously linked as are the funky horns and organ work on Mike Gordon's "555".

The Anastasio/Marshall numbers lyrically seem to deal with divorce or at least separation but in two different styles. "Devotion To A Dream" seems destined for a future Broadway play with its "Aquarius (Let The Sun Shine In)", sunshiny instrumentation that is custom made for the stage while "Sing Monica" has a stale put down feel to it telling the offending (presumed woman) to "go back where you belong". The pairs third offering is more in old school Phish mode as "Winterqueen" ambles dreamily around in front of excellently executed horns.  

Other offerings are a mid-tempo bland "The Line" a purely nonsensical perfectly Phish throwaway "Wombat" and a disk closing "Wingsuit" that seems lame at best before a soaring "Comfortably Numb"esque guitar solo rescues the track flashing Anastasio's best guitar work on the disk.

The most successful group effort here is the interlocking "Waiting All Night" featuring relationship regretful group vocals, a buzzing undercurrent of indie rock sounding layers and a pretty chorus. This seems to be a perfect studio-centric effort that the band could build upon live but then the track runs 5 minutes when 3 and a half would have sufficed; Phish over doing it (for both good and bad) since 1983!

Lets face it for a band who simply owns the live stage they have struggled mightily when recording studio albums and Fuego is pretty much par for that course. Containing odd to forgettable lyrics and  gorgeous instrumentation it is certainly enough to appease fans until the next live show or download arrives.
Can write for days and days on the band I have seen live more then any other, but safe to say none of their studio disks are truly satisfying. Fuego is no different, hits and misses, would have given it 2 and 1/2 stars but the production is really world class bumping it up to three.

Support the band here, buy the album, go see them live here and peep some video below:

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