Album Reviewer: Michael Mariscal
Ever since their reunion in 2008, Phish has held the title of best current jam band securely. They are great in numerous ways. First and foremost, they’re incredibly talented: singer Trey Anastasio is on top of being technically excellent one of the best soloists of his time. Drummer Jon Fishman delivers consistently interesting and creative beats and fills show after show. And there’s no weak link in this chain. Bassist Mike Gordan and Keyboard player Page McConnell are perfect this band. Together, these players were made for each other. Each one of them seems to know instinctively what to do when. The result is a consistently wonderful product whenever they play.
Phish’s latest album, Fuego, captures all of this. Take the song Winterqueen (my favorite of the album): it starts with a guitar riff, beautiful on its own accord. Then Anastasio adds the perfect notes to dance with it, the making of a excellent song. Then the bass and keyboard softly enter, fitting it so nicely that you barely realize they’re there. But when the original riff is played again it feels very different. It’s material like this that only Phish can produce.
Their awareness of each instrument’s place in the band is evident again in Waiting All Night. Fueled by a light, swirling bass riff, Anastasio’s crescendos and mimicking add tremendously. The song also feature’s another Phish staple: a catchy chorus that sucks you in to calm and bliss.
Of course, this album falls into the typical pitfalls that limit every jam band in their studio albums. The product is watered down from their live material–the album is too gentle, too scared of a long solo or any hint of abrasiveness. It’ll make you feel happy, but it’s not ambitious enough to do anything more.
With that in mind, I give this album a four. Everything it tries to do it does well. My only request is that Phish tries to do a little more.