Sheer ‘Joy’ Over Phish’s Triumphant Return
What a smelly summer. Everywhere I went seemed to have a Phishy scent.
Starting at Camp Kee Wanee in Greenfield, Mass. and ending at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in New York, this has been a glorious span.
Strange Creek was a weekend of friends, music and the start of summer. The boys from Phish pissed in my ears (literally) at Bonnaroo.
My homies from the Dead put on a face-melting exposition at Rothbury. Even RatDog had me rocking out at an otherwise dreary Vibes.
But to be honest, nothing compared the last week of Phish shows. I was lucky enough to catch a bunch of them with some of my closest buds. For crying out loud, I finally got my first live “Fluffhead” at Darien Lake, N.Y.
Now the weather is shifting from sexy and sunny to crisp and colorful. I would reflect on all the great times, but this website has morals and values, making my stories heinously inappropriate. But I do want to do my review of Phish’s new album, Joy, which is available for illegal download right now. (It hits stores tomorrow, September 8.)
Let me preface this by saying I’ve only heard live versions of these songs throughout the summer (except one). Starting at Phenway in May all the way to SPAC in August, I now have an idea as to what Phish 3.0 brings to the table. We all know the best Phish is live, but this album may start to change that stigma a bit. You can definitely tell the band is older and much wiser. (But it’s reeaaallly poppy.)
1. Backwards Down The Number Line (5:37)
OK, phans, I know what you are thinking. How could Phish go so pop? The opening line is “Happy happy oh my friend,” which leads into an emotional journey about a childhood friendship. Regardless, this song is catchy and has the happiest lyrics ever. It’s a fitting way to kick off the first new Phish album in five years. I heard this song at a Trey Band show in Albany back in October and I wasn’t too happy with it, but once I heard it a bunch (mainly when performed by Phish) it grew on me like a delicious fungus.
2. Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan (4:40)
“Got a blank space where my mind should be!” is an appropriate opening line. The lead guitar riff is Grateful Dead-esque, with the touch of Trey we all love. It’s a great jam vehicle, but I think they need to work on the live version a bit more, much like the rest of the songs on Joy.
3. Joy (4:24)
Not really sold on this song. I don’t know what the song is about, but it’s a ballad, mostly fit for a studio album. In my opinion this should be once in a while song, meaning leave it out of the live rotation.
4. Sugar Shack (4:04)
MIKE’S NEW SONG! Gordo, bassist extraordinaire, has penned this track in, well, only a way Gordo could. It has a funky feel with a hint of Mike’s soulful, yet gleefully goofy lyrics. Toss in Trey’s filthy lead guitar and you have one of the best dance songs on the album.
5. Ocelot (3:36)
I talked with a bunch of kids on lot and we have come to this conclusion: This song has to be about Trey’s battle with addiction. It’s catchy rocker with a sing-a-long hook. Middle of the set quickie is where it is finding its place.
6. Kill Devil Falls (5:29)
While I am writing this, I have my guitar over my shoulder, blasting the Bonnaroo version and jamming along with it. This is quite possibly my favorite song ever made. From now on when Phish opens with “Chalkdust Torture” they should segue into KDF, forming a desirably incestuous pair. It sounds like Trey wrote this song about being under house arrest — at least that’s what the lyrics suggest. “Who knew a day would turn into a week, but I learned my lesson. And yes I still remember the last one. This time will be different…until I do it again,” is the kind of playful cynicism that has come to help define the band.
7. Light (5:02)
Not sold. Don’t really like it, maybe it will grow on me. Sounds like a church song.
8. I Been Around (1:57)
Heard this at SPAC. It’s a nice number, as Page sings his heart out talking about past indiscretions. McConnell at his finest.
9. Time Turns Elastic (13:30)
The 2009 “You Enjoy Myself”? Not quite. Some people had renamed this “Time Turns Craptastic” but that would be inaccurate. Any song of this magnitude needs time to be ironed out. It’s a 13-minute epic. And if you don’t like the first nine minutes, wait until the final four. You will see Trey’s amazing composition skills shine through. This will go down as a classic over time, just give it a chance.
10. Twenty Years Later (5:03)
I need to hear this many more times before I can make an honest judgment, however the version at SPAC had me listening intently. I can say that it is a perfect song to trade solo’s on.
There you have it, folks. Also being released is Party Time, as part of a dual release. “Alaska” is one of the tracks off it, and it’s a nice happy song, fit for a middle of the first set relaxer.
So, summer is over. It’s been a long, strange trip and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
See you all on Phall tour!