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Phish: Fuego

As a growing musician from the east coast experimenting with jazz, fusion, rock and hallucinogens, it was inevitable that my world would be opened up to Phish.  Upon first listen (in fact, my first 50 listens), I was repulsed by the goofy lyrics, the quirky twists on musical cliche’s, and the outright absurdity of the band.  Then a turning point occurred.  I heard the song that related to me.  That song was the key that unlocked the door to understanding the band.  It was that live version of YEM from “A Live One.”  After that I was a die hard fan, admiring the compositions and musicianship; allowing myself to fully embrace the bands’ artistic journey.

“Whether you know its work or just its reputation, you’ve probably already made up your mind about Phish. Maybe you love the band and its music, maybe you can’t stand them, or maybe you liked them and have since moved on to other things. Phish is one of the most dynamic and celebrated live acts in all of music, with a loyal community any artist would envy, but it’s also divisive. This is a band that inspires passion with its multipart compositions, meandering improvisations, playful (often nonsensical) lyrics and unwavering positivity. For the same reasons, it also courts punchlines from its fervent detractors.

Any band 30-plus years into a career of remarkable successes and struggles, not to mention a “hiatus” and a “breakup,” is unlikely to change many minds with its 12th album. Yet here we are: Phish’s first studio record in five years, Fuego, is the Vermont band’s finest work in more than a decade — since at least 1996’s Billy Breathes or 1998’s The Story of the Ghost.”

This is a departure from normal Chest Rockwell music posts, but I gotta keep it real with my influences!!  On first listen I’m loving this new album.  For me this is some of their best songwriting in a music/lyric cohesion sense.  The recordings sound great.  The sounds and mix are excellent, with more punchy drums and present bass than past recordings.  Trey, who’s sound usually holds the spotlight blends seamlessly with Page and is accompanied by overdubs that give the songs a more produced feel while keeping a live spirit.  To me, producer Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel) captured the bands’ classic rock spirit, and pulled out the more “vibier” Phish focusing on songs and soundscapes rather than flashy musicianship and skillful improvising.  I’m excited to keep diving into the album and get a better sense of it.

You can get a first look and stream the album on NPR.org