At the time of this writing, Phish's latest album. Awesome experimental stuff. As usual for the group, a mixture of practically every genre of music in the Western world and then some. It's their first one without a purely instrumental song, but that's okay, since the sheer weirdness of some songs (like "Ficus") and awesomeness of others (like "Limb By Limb") more than makes up for it.

Phish gets around to cooking their noodling al dente--finally, their near-psychic ability to build off one another's groove comes to fruition, and it's a beautiful thing. It's a more upbeat Billy Breathes that doesn't kiss up to the MTV millions, and you can tell that Phish has come back to making albums that they wanted to make. Oh, and as a bonus, some of Trey's lyrics have caught up: having run out of lyrics that don't make sense, he's almost been forced to write coherently in places, and the results are a treat. It could be that Tom Marshall's songwriting has matured--he's the brilliant mind behind Run Like an Antelope. The freshness of their "experimental" sound feels like a rebirth of their playful style, a second childhood. Despite the lack of variation in the meter of most of the lyrics on the album, many of them are better-thought-out than some of their older toss-offs.

In putting their title track first, they're repeating a move they made on Rift, and when they did it Rift, it signalled that the title track was an explanation of the album, and that the other songs were simply subplots in the album's story. In the liner notes to this album, the track Ghost is printed in indigo wherever it appears, like the word house in House of Leaves. Is there a significance? What is The Story of the Ghost? The lyrics to Ghost lead me to believe that it's about beating an addiction of some sort--the key lines being "I guess I just stopped needing him / as much as once before." Does it mean that they've given up drugs? I doubt it. Perhaps they've given up trying to be popular? Birds of a Feather seems to suggest so, but the other songs don't really pound home the theme like Rift did. Maybe I need to dig deeper--or maybe I need to chill out and enjoy this great album.

There are crisp guitar solos from Trey that sound cut from ringing quartz. There are times--like Water in the Sky--when Page McConnell's piano becomes the thunder before an afternoon summer storm and simultaneously, the warm wind that follows. Mike Gordon's slapped and picked bass gives a jolly funk feel to many of the songs, but also clings to the beat like duct tape on challenging fast sections like the jig in Guyute. Last but not least, Jon Fishman's drumming is less obtrusive, and more supportive--he's taken a page from Carter Beauford's book, and left behind the gorilla style of John Bonham for this album, but one suspects, listening to the end of Limb by Limb, that he could break it out again and explode. Everything's tighter: if "noodling" is wandering and looking for the Ineffable Groove, then "The Story of the Ghost" is about what happens when you get rid of the bullshit and go find it.

  1. Ghost
  2. Birds of a Feather
  3. Meat
  4. Guyute
  5. Fikus
  6. Shafty
  7. Limb by Limb
  8. Frankie Says
  9. Brian and Robert
  10. Water in the Sky
  11. Roggae
  12. Wading in the Velevet Sea
  13. The MOMA Dance
  14. End of Session

Slip Stitch and Pass-=*{The Story of the Ghost}*=-Hampton Comes Alive

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