Release Date: Sep 8, 2009
Record label: Jemp
"Backwards Down the Number Line," which opens the set, is one of the more straightforward things Anastasio has written with Marshall, and reflects on gratitude despite the messes and sorrows in his life -- much of the album is about his long struggle with dope and his sister Kristy passing away from cancer (check "Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan"). "Ocelot" could have been a Grateful Dead track; it contains all the legendary band's tropes, from vocal harmonies to a strolling country shuffle song structure to Anastasio aping Jerry Garcia's guitar tone on the solo. At the end of the tune Phish add a lyrical and melodic nod to the Beatles' "Dear Prudence.
The 14th studio album from Phish, and their first after a five-year hiatus that ended with a series of reunion shows in March, starts with “Backwards Down the Number Line”, a Dead-style piece of sunny roots-rock that finds singer/guitarist Trey Anastasio’s vocals taking on a smoother sheen these days—close to Eric Clapton’s timbre—perhaps thanks to the steady production hand of Steve Lillywhite, back with Phish for the first time since 1996’s Billy Breathes. Across the song’s three-minute mark, Anastasio starts soloing in a familiar meander, which reaches the four-minute and then five-minute mark, and you can imagine a collective smile from the faithful and a collective groan from the doubters. And that’s the quandary that Phish faces on its studio work—the difficulty of capturing the eclectic exuberance of their unpredictable live shows, which have always been far more about vibe—or dancing or drugs or community or fashion—than about songs.
After a five-year hiatus, the ?long-running, jam-happy quartet has decided to give it another go, returning with their most commercial-sounding album since 2000’s polarizing Farmhouse. Not everything here works, but tracks like the sing-along-ready ”Kill Devil Falls” and the winding 13-minute opus ”Time Turns Elastic” could send anyone — not just hardcore ? devotees — into an ecstatic twirl dance. While Joy doesn’t find Phish exploring much new territory, the band sticks to their strengths, making for a welcome return.
PHISH“Joy”(Jemp) “Happy happy” are the first words Trey Anastasio sings on “Joy,” the first studio album from Phish since its rescinded final breakup in 2004; “second time around” are the last ones. That’s no accident. Five years apart apparently left the band members missing ….