Phish Front Man Swims ‘Far Out’
By Duane Clancy
Trey Anastasio, front-man for the band Phish, has released a new solo album. “Traveler” was released on schedule October 16th. Peter Katis (The National, Interpol, Jonsi) helped Trey to co-produce the album. Several other artists invited to work with them include: Mates of States Kori Gardner, The National’s Bryan Devendorf and Matt Berninger, and Icelandic percussionist Samuli Kosminen. In the fine tradition that continues to caress the hearts and minds of Phish fans all over the world, this album is pretty much “all over the world” too.
Phish has a style that’s, well, let’s just say it’s hard to pin down—or describe. It’s equally as challenging to pigeon-hole the style of music Trey Anastasio produces outside of Phish. Leaning toward the funk-synth style that keeps fans going to shows, this album is another in a long list of musical expression stretching for almost thirty years.
The album is aptly named. Traveler takes you on a journey that can only be described as kaleidoscopic. The first track on the album, “Corona” begins as a feel-good melody that wraps you up and careens you to the edge of known space in a hypnotic trance. Then the music changes abruptly and slaps you back to reality with the reverb-like effect of the back-up vocals. Maybe he was going for a layered effect. Like an onion.
The next memorable track was a mood shifter in “Land of Nod.” Starting with a funky riff that gives way to an upbeat oompa bass, the melody gets really freaky as it shifts to a synth driven melody with a sleepily infused lyrical backing. The distance traveled in this little tune is reminiscent of a roller coaster ride, possibly to the moon and back. While drugged. And tied up.
Steadied by passing through a funky-pop culture scene set by the normalcy of the musical theme in “Pigtail,” you are again cast about in a sea of turmoil with a more progressive feel in “Scabbard”. The roller coaster feeling of sound and styles, with no lyrical direction, lasts for a full six minutes with this song. To be honest, I fell asleep during this song, but admittedly, it had been a long day.
The highlight for the album features a cover of the Gorillaz song “Clint Eastwood.” It is arguably the most notable song of the album. Voices of Trey Anastasio and singer Jennifer Hartswick join together to make a wonderful counterpoint duet. There are just enough differences in their styles to blend in a very distinct and workable rendition of the song, but should definitely be labeled Not Safe for Work due to some colorful language.
The album continues on the ups and downs of feeling and tension before finally closing with a twist into the past with “Traveler,” which has more of an early 80’s rock feel. Blue Oyster Cult could probably have made a hit out of this gem if it had come out in 1978.
There was a little difficulty working through a slightly confusing web site at phish.com. When describing the new album (and the band Phish in general), Trey Anastasio said, “There’s something in there for everybody.”
Trey Anastasio Band will be touring for the rest of this month to promote the new album. Phish is going to be doing a 2012-2013 New Years Run at Madison Square Garden from Dec 28th – Dec 31st. With 23 MSG visits already, this four-day year-end set will be right up their alley, and will be general admission for the first time ever.