Phish are on fire with Fuego, their 12th studio album since Junta in 1989. It's one of their most audacious efforts from start to finish.
Who begins an album with a nine-minute mission statement? Phish do. The title track goes in so many directions you need GPS to figure it all out. It's masterful, with lead singer/guitarist Trey Anastasio, keyboardist Page McConnell, bassist Mike Gordon and drummer Jon Fishman conspiring to take phans on a whole new trip. "We keep rolling," they sing in perfect harmony, which is the correct metaphor for the mightiest of jam bands.
It's a non-stop procession of solid songs with fat hooks. The first three tracks are fairly predictable, but what comes next, and later on the album, is not. McConnell steps to the fore on "Halfway to the Moon," a jazzy exploration reminiscent of a Paul Simon tune. This theme continues on "555," rich with horns, back-up vocals and a rollicking shuffle beat courtesy of Fishman. Several other funky tracks - "Sister Monica" and "Wombat" (listen above) - will surely compel listeners to dance and sing along.
There's a lot of terrific harmonies here, with the band in sync like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, especially on the closer "Wingsuit," which begins, "Steal away/ Let's steal a car." Slowly the song builds, with one of Anastasio's trademark crescendo-peaking solos and McConnell's full range on piano, Rhodes and organ, to a satisfying phinish.
Probably the most curious cut on Fuego is "Waiting All NIght" (watch below), which leans heavy on a Floyd-style dreamscape and Beach Boys-esque harmonies, thanks in large part to producer Bob Ezrin's influence. It's pure late-'70s soft-rock, with Anastasio wondering "why you left me this way."
Fuego may be a little all over the map, but it sure is a phun ride.