The absolute first thing I have to say about Phish’s new album, Round Room, is that I really want to hear these songs live. I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that I haven’t already. These are good songs, particularly “Mexican Cousin,” a drinking song chronicling a love affair with tequila, reminiscent of Jimmy Buffett at his best. With better instrumentals, of course. “Waves” is a strong jam, with the almost classical scope in the control of tension, perhaps the choicest on the album, though, being a Phish disc, it’s riddled with them.
There does seem to be a problem that plagues the newly reunited band. The energy on this record is nearly nonexistent. The pace drags its feet a bit through the album. The chemistry’s still there, they’re still brilliant musicians, but they seem pretty damn tired. In the song “Friday,” they ask, “Why isn’t it Friday today?” and anybody else who’s asked that question knows the condition one is in on a Monday when you think that. Maybe not studio condition.
The astounding chemistry shared between Trey Anastasio, Jon Fishman, Mike Gordon and Page McConnell makes it difficult to single them out, but Trey’s guitar has an almost George Harrison cast to it in the way he is able to simply add exactly what’s needed, neither too much nor too little.
Call it a Sunday morning hangover album. The material is there, the musicianship and craft of the instrumentals is the usual high quality, but the four days they spent recording it don’t appear to have been enough.
[Cory Anthony will be sure to chronicle his next love affair with tequila.]