Permalink for Comment #1378212157 by hdorne

, comment by hdorne
hdorne Pretending to be someone else can be an incredibly liberating experience as an artist. The Beatles did it with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, XTC with The Dukes of Stratosphere, and so on. In the case of XTC, it even went on to influence their main output. Phish was doing that here, but taking it even farther by creating an elaborate backstory and cultural lore for the band. Nothing says “this is a real album” like an Erlewine AllMusic review.

The lyrics are disjointed and clumsy, which is kind of the point. My only critique is in some of the vocal delivery, which I frequently found shouty and too reliant on unison parts. They are also mixed way too high on the recording. That doesn’t do their harmonies any favors, although Trey’s evolution as a truly soulful, compelling singer continues to delight.

That being said, these songs have some bizarrely catchy qualities. “WACTOOB,” an acronym that, should its name actually be abbreviated on setlists would make a wook lose its wings, is my favorite song from the set. There’s something strangely beautiful about it. “Say it to Me S.A.N.T.O.S.” shows the depth of this band’s commitment to the gag, referencing the Arctic research facility where the members of Kasvot Växt met, even if the chorus is painful to the ears. Again, having the entire band singing outside their range at the same time doesn’t do their limited voices any favors. I’d be fine if I never heard this song again. It’s dumb. “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long” features a blistering solo from Trey, although again I find the vocal delivery a little ham-handed and corny. “Stray Dog” features a chord change in the verse that is almost what you expect, but just a bit off. That’s a theme of this entire set. It sort of sounds like Phish, sometimes unmistakably so as in the composer section of “Everything is Hollow,” but there’s something off about it. Sometimes it works. “I’m the glue in your magnet” makes no sense, but it nonetheless gets stuck in my head in the best possible way. Sometimes it falls flat for me, as in the mind-numbing repetition of “faceplant into rock.”

Unpopular opinion: I hate Page’s samples. A show without anything from 10/31/14 is a winner for me.

The continuing dilemma I have with Phish is that while they are improvising and playing off each other at a level that is truly awe-inspiring, 30+ years into their career, they keep writing songs that are beneath them. The composed section of “Everything is Hollow” is a potent reminder that Trey really is a brilliant and unique rock composer whose distinctive melodic and harmonic twists and turns are the high point of their non-jammed musical output. Then they return to the caveman butt-rock riff of the song, an absolute chore to listen to. Some bands can pull off caveman butt-rock and it’s great, but I think it shows Phish’s weaknesses. They are better suited to finesse and delicacy, and basic rock riffs that rely on brute force can fall flat with them. It’s why I’ve never been able to get into 10/31/14 material, and not just the relentless and annoying samples. Much of the music is so basic and dumb, so beneath their instrumental abilities. And ultimately I feel very similarly about this set as I do that one. It’s undeniably brilliant in its concept and winking Phishiness. The set design and commitment to the theatrical and conceptual aspects are truly amazing. Some of these songs should absolutely stay in the repertoire and end up on the jam charts someday. But while I’m certainly in on the joke and love the band immensely for pulling it off, I won’t be in a hurry to hear some of these songs ever again.


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