Let me start by saying that I love the band Phish. Trey Anastasio is the guitarist that made me want to play the instrument as a 14 year old pup. Not Jimi, not Jimmy, not Eric but Trey. That said, this man is getting too old or out of touch to make any relevant music. The once edgy, atonal, bliss filled composer has turned into a guy in his mid-forties who writes terribly cheesy, predictable wank-pop.
Bar 17 is Trey’s new album, it dropped (not because it’s hot, because it’s a bomb) last Tuesday. It features a dazzling array of almost every musician Trey has ever shared the stage with from Phish’s Mike Gordon and Jon Fishman to the Benevento/Russo Duo to John Medeski. Despite the all-star cast, the album refuses to accomplish anything noteworthy. There a few flashes of classic Trey but most jams are just mindless meandering ("Goodbye Head" and "Bar 17"). A couple decent moments are the poppy, vocal-layered outro to "Let Me Lie" and the Story of the Ghost-
era funk of "What’s Done"’s verses.
I must admit that my problem with Bar 17
is mainly the vocals, both the singing and lyrical content. Trey’s voice seems strained on rockers like "Dragonfly" and "Mud City" and he can’t quite pull of the pretty falsetto style of "Empty House". Also, Trey seems to be borrowing more than just musical ideas from his daughter (Eliza helped write the music to "Goodbye Head"). Lyrics like "The skyrockets are alive and breathing", "Dance all night with your boots and your dragonfly", and "Gonna take my bike out, Gonna take my bike. Gonna ride it slowly, ride it just how I like" makes me think he and Tom Marshall need to have a serious talk. And no, I don’t want to go to Mud City, Trey, and how the hell can I "sail away to Cincinnati?". I will be seeing Trey at Vegoose in a couple weeks, part of my yearly Trey fix, let’s hope he plays a lot of cover songs.
Key tracks: "What’s Done", "Goodbye Head", "Cincinnati"’s intro music. (Rating: single)
Bonus disc 18 Steps’
key tracks: "Dark and Down", "Discern". (rating: double)