I’ve survived the morning here in Corporate Hell. Amazeballs. Now I just have a few hours to endure before I can bunk out of here early to the doctor’s and, hopefully, get my clearance to resume my swim training. Fingers crossed anyway. This afternoon’s musical indulgence is steering away from the heavy blues rock and WTF? albums I’ve been listening too over the past few days and redirecting back into a guilty Dad Rock pleasure, the newest album by Phish, ‘Big Boat‘.
Where I used to consider myself a huge Phish fan, I kind of thought that the band jumped the shark about 15 years ago with the ‘Round Room‘ (2002) album. Sure, I’ve listening to a few offerings since then but not very intently. There were some moments on ‘Joy‘ (2009) and ‘Fuego‘ (2014) but it wasn’t the same band I toured around with and tripped balls over to back in the day.
Yet, here I am going back to the well one more time.
In fact, this album represents the 13th time (this time with studio legend Bob Ezrin at the helm.) that I’ve gone back to that well. And, well, let’s just say that the past two times the pay off was rather scarce.
Taking inspiration from Noah’s Ark, ‘Big Boat’ finds Phish trying to create a sense of togetherness. Drummer Jon Fishman invites the listener along on opener ‘Friends‘ as the titular big boat arrives and takes us to ‘Breath and Burning‘ (both kinda lame), where frontman Trey Anastasio lackadaisically describes the apocalypse in the same way Jimmy Buffett describes cheeseburgers. This sort of carelessness comes off more as harmless eccentricity, though, as it’s to be expected from a band who’s as well known for their goofiness as they are for their lengthy set times.
A number of these songs were honed on-stage during tours in 2015 and early 2016, and the easy buoyancy of tracks like ‘Blaze On‘ and the funky horn-laden ‘No Men in No Man’s Land‘ feel like they could have been in the group’s canon for years. But, still, this is not the band I adored 15 years ago. I appreciate that they are still having fun and living life large, but this is not something I’m not likely going to listen to again.
Sorry boys, but ‘Tide Turns‘, a sappy melodramatic ditty, sadly, almost made me throw up in my mouth a little.
And about ‘Things to Do?‘
‘Miss You‘ is kinda sucky-sweet and all romantic n’ shit and – yes, I admit – I kind of liked it, this isn’t the type of balls-to-the-wall jam song that made me go to all those live shows or buy their albums. No doubt that all the cutesy dread-locked hippy girls will love this track as they dry hump their crunchy boyfriends in the aisles but back in the day, this is where I likely would have gone to the bathroom. I suppose these sucky-sweet tunes appeal more to me more now as an adult, but I digress.
While most of the album sails through familiar waters of funky rock, soul, and even zydeco, fans hoping for something a bit more stretched-out and expansive are thankfully treated to the closing opus, ‘Petrichor‘…the albums redeeming moment. Initially a piece Anastasio composed – and performed – for guitar and orchestra, the 13-minute multi-parter runs the gamut of what Phish have to offer and plays to all of their instrumental and compositional strengths a la ‘You Enjoy Myself‘ and ‘Divided Sky‘. I was almost reminiscent of the old days of wearing sarongs, dousing myself in patchouli and ingesting handfuls of psychedelic ingestibles and twirling my ass off for hours on end.
Total Shit List.
I will say this though: the album cover is kinda awesome, like, a Simply the Tits kind of awesome. I could stare at this cover for hours (even without the ingestibles).
Hey, it’s something.