Phish’s first studio album in 5 amazing years, that included 2 Fall Tours, 4 Summer Tours, 3 Halloween Runs, 2 Festivals 2, strike that 3 new light setup's, 4 Holiday/NYE Runs and growth that rivals that of any other half-decade period in the band's life. Yup, they have been busy. And that's not to mention all the solo projects.
So cutting to chase this new studio work, Fuego, is a testament to that growth, and their age with I can only image comes with wisdom and also confidence. The record contains multiple well orchestrated songs that in the live setting will prove to be the fodder that Phish thrives on. However one get's a sense after hearing it through that it's more of a song-by-song record where you get a smattering of randomness, some that is great, others not so, Fuego: a splatter of random yet not-to-be-dismissed songs that's real congruence speaks lighter than most Phish albums, yet a abandoned sense of freedom and attention to detail, that of which is more potent than all of their albums that have come before it. The title track is a beautifully executed piece of music that with it's sporadic time signatures, raw guitar effects, extended ending that feels like it's leading itself into a jam will be the first masterpiece of the album. Another well crafted track, "The Line" with it's emotionally charged back-story is a beautifully song where at the end piano, vocals and rolling guitar all fit in tightly like a puzzle piece. "Devotion to A Dream" really takes advantage of their capable vocal harmonies and backing vocals as well, all of which comes off strong from each member, unfortunately the song as a whole feels and sounds a bit half-baked, if not at times just plane bland. "No more wondering, Why I stay here for", I wonder where the creativity and risk went on this one. Though it is upbeat and moving, it lacks to move the listener and as a studio track it comes up a bit short.
We've been listening to Page's anti-climatic snap rock psychedelic song "Halfway To The Moon" for the last two years and have been able to see it in limited fashion in the live setting. The studio treatment of this gem is fantastic and my hat's off to Producer Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Lou Reed), for his masterful layering of organ, piano, a bass led rhythm that opens this track up, it's pleasing builds are complimented by insightful lyrics, what a treat to have Ezrin, the Boy's, and Page kill it on this song. As we take a moment to exhale Phish does this with the exciting surprise of the album, "Winterqueen". It's birth comes off as a "Summer of '89"; acoustic guitar, Trey led, sang lullaby. It grows with each verse, grounding the listener, again the music wraps up Trey's lyrics in a cozy blanket that is full and inventive and with a full blown horn ending, climatically, the sounds of wind blowing and other effects make sure you get every cent from this dollar. This songs grows into a beautiful being, one that is comfortably complete, but by far not over; much like the band that performs it. "Sing Monica" has some of the greatest lyrics from Phish since "It's Ice". Listen to it. Smile, listen again, crack up, and then take in the magic that is the music that surrounds the space that is the best instrument of this track, the word play itself.
"555" with is funky, rhythm heavy romp it is one of the few track's from the new record that can actually attest to the time-frame in which it was written. Surprisingly catchy from go, Mike and Fishman go back and forth lyrically, horns again add to the down tempo side of the tune, where Trey lays off the wah-wah, Page lays all over the Organ. It's no longer a Trey surrounded by a band, but rather a band of brothers, surrounding each other, surrounded by die-hard fans, and presumably even more die-hard families. "Waiting All Night" is not really that great, that is until you put on headphones, sit in a dark room and close your eyes and turn it up to 11. The little intricate details that fill the spaces between the lyrics and composed music is what separates Fuego from all other Phish albums. "Wombat" is going to be fun the live setting, it might even become a great opener like "Crowd Control" or "Party Time", I'm thinkin' it should've been left behind for this record. It's full of novelty and I cannot pin-point the, well, point. If the record is made to entertain, this track does little to add to entertainment value of the final product, I have faith in it's future though. Enough, HAD THAT:WOMBAT.
This brings me to "Wingsuit". It is a slow starter and while it burns long it is the spacey montage that for one, I can't stop listening to over and over again, the lyrics, the building bass lines, harmonies all give way to this perfect moment, perhaps the most pure moment on the record, where Trey and company launch into this amazing jam. The timing is unreal, I couldn't have created a better thought to match what they did in reality. This is what convinced me that the band truly believes that there's nothing to say and nothing to loose. If their was a mark to be made for every song you get the vibe that I would say it missed some. This is okay though. Brilliantly it does what all other Phish albums have neglected, an attention to detail, a perfection of filling space that in some ways consume itself. In this self-consumption we as fans can be Grateful that these will be getting the treatment on stage this Summer. I can only image how this review would sound a year from now.
3½ out of 5 GlowSticks!
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