Well, I was excited when I saw Phish released a song from Fuego for fans to listen to before its release date on June 24th. Despite the fact that last Halloween’s sneak-preview performance was a tad on the disappointing side. The one stand out song I really liked was “Wombat”. I hoped beyond hope that the rest of the album would lean more towards “Wombat”, and less towards, um… some of the other stuff they played that night under the fictitious assumed identity of the band Wingsuit.
Now, I don’t like being a 3.0 hater, Joy did have some really good stuff in it. And last year’s summer tour was absolute fire. Musically, they hold up to any previous incarnation of Phish. “Carini” has been at an all-time high. “Light”, which I didn’t particularly care for on the album, has proved to be an absolute a showstopper many times. Tweezer, Crosseyed, Ghost, Gin, just to name a few, just seem to get better and better, topping themselves with each new show. And honestly, Dick’s 8-31-2013 was probably the best Phish show I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been seeing Phish since 1996. In fact, each Dick’s run has been better than I’d ever hoped for and has yet to disappoint even in the slightest. Even last New Year’s had some moments of pure genius, which included the best “Walls of the Cave” I think I’ve ever heard.
But live performances aside, their song writing hasn’t exactly won any awards. While Joy did have some catchy tunes, Ocelot and Backwards Down the Number Line (Sorry Trey, I know you get a hard-on every time you get to sing “Happy, happy, oh my friend”) lack a certain substance from Phish songs of yore. And songs like the albums namesake, “Joy” and “Sugar Shack” make me want to stab my eyes out with a pencil. “Stealing Time” is probably the only song I’d say was the exception. And of course, what Phish Phan doesn’t think the line from Kill Devil Falls, “I’ve learned my lesson. Yes, I still remember the last one. But this time will be different! (until I do it again.)” was written specifically for them? Every person in the audience sings that line as though Trey wrote it just to let them know “hey, I get you.” It cracks me up. But hey… it was written for me, so… 😉 I know some of you might be thinking, how could I not mention “I’ve Been Around”. Anything written by Page is gold in my book. Got something bad to say about Page, you got to go through me first. And I’ll fight dirty. Some other people might try to make the same claim, but they’re full of shit, I’m Page’s biggest fan. I’d take a “Lawn Boy” in every show if I could. (Page Side, Rage Side, mother fuckas!)
But sadly, after hearing this sampling of Fuego, I suddenly have a new found respect for Joy. My expectations for the rest of the album have sunk much lower than even I had originally hoped for. I hope they prove me wrong. I hope for some unexplainable reason they released the worst song on the album and the rest of it will blow us away. But hey, even a mediocre album would make me happy at this point. So I guess they’ve got that going for them.
However, despite my pessimistic outlook towards their album, I still fully expect this coming summer tour to deliver face-melting, jaw dropping, funk-rocking, show-stopping jams. Page just gets better and better each year. Mike will continue to bring the funk. Trey, well Trey will just be Trey – guitar god extraordinaire. And even Fishman, at least we can always count on him to wear that dress. Nobody can be perfect at everything. I’ll settle for second rate song writers, who also happen to be the world’s best live rock ‘n roll performers. I’m cool with that. And I’m so grateful that they continue to keep bringing it year after year. Nothing makes me happier than a Phish show. I wait all year for the summer and arrange my entire life around their tour dates, and it never disappoints. I’m usually a little nervous for my first show of the year. Like, is it really as good as I remember, or am making it out to be better than it is? Can anything really be that good? But with some very rare exceptions (cough, cough, Bonarroo 2012), it’s always even better than I remember. I don’t care if they never release another album again. I’d be happy with a Tweezer/Tweeprise in every single show. Or even a show that just covered Talking Heads songs. Oh, that would be awesome. But anyway, the point is, I’m not a hater. I just don’t feel the need to fluff when fluff is not due. They still continue to amaze me year after year. And for that, I couldn’t be more appreciative. I’ll be seeing these five guys for as long as they let me, hopefully till the day I die. Yes, I said five guys. I count Kuroda as a full-fledged member of the band. Could you imagine a Phish show without the lights?? (I want to have his light babies. Just don’t tell Page).
To end this on a high note, I’ve included last New Year’s version of Wombat at MSG. Once you take a listen to “Waiting All Night” (link at the top of the page), you’ll have a better appreciation of Wombat and what I hoped the album would be like.
Ps. Except – Fuck the whole band for not doing any West Coast dates! WTF is that about?!? There better be a west coast heavy fall tour announced soon! But I’m a sucker for a talented musicians, so I’ll forgive you – this one time.