Monday, February 16, 2009

Trains: Back On The Train

Phish: Back on the Train


A quick check in the archives shows that in almost a year of Star Maker Machine, I'm the first to post Phish. No apologies here -- I've been a fan of their studio work since my first show way back in 1991, when you could still get general admission seats and plop down in the third row right next to Jon Fishman's mother. I've kept up with them throughout the years via their studio output, and I've been waiting for the perfect opportunity to set the record straight.

So here it is: though they may have inherited their 'heads, in breadth and scope, skill and substance, on the record, Phish are nothing at all like their hippified live-band predecessors the Dead. Where Jerry and Co. were bluegrass and Blues, Phish starts with improvisational jazz and ironic post-rock and a huge snifter of silliness, ending up somewhere to the rockin' side of Bob Dorough. And this song is but one of many, from a plethora of genre stances from jazz noodling to rock jamming, which prove it.

Those expecting the stereotypical hippie jam may be surprised. This trainsong, from their last of seven career albums to go gold, is tight light alt-funk, a bit loose but perfectly radio-ready, catchy without a whiff of patchouli. Skip the concert, avoid the brown acid, stay home, and stock up of their recordings -- true Phishheads may disdain you, but I swear, you'll be happy you became a collector.

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