Over the last few years, Vampire Weekend’s Chris Tomson has made no secret of his love for the oft-maligned noodlers in Phish, but in a review of their new album Fuego for the Talkhouse, he makes it pretty clear just how deep that affinity goes. “I once responded to a $1,000 cash offer for my ticket to [Phish’s] NYE ’02 show with a terse yet decisive, ‘No fucking way, bro,'” he writes.
But because he’s never quite descended to the depth of obsession that “many, many people” reach, and because of his position in one of the most beloved contemporary indie rock bands (and SPIN’s 2013 Band of the Year), he’s in a unique position to explain the beloved/maligned Vermont jam band to a crowd who overlooks them on the basis of extramusical factors.
“While a lot of Phish fans do not conform to the stereotypes that are the anathema of cool for young, urban, liberal, internet hipsterdom, many in fact do.” explains Tomson. “HACKY-SACK AND FRISBEES. WHITE PERSON DREADLOCKS/TRUSTAFARIANS. KICKING A DOOB WHILE DANCING WITH A HULA HOOP AROUND YOUR WAIST. This is scary stuff, people.”
He thinks that rejecting a band based on these peripheral details is, well, “bullshit,” but notes that even the band itself has been struggling with its “intrinsic Phishness” for a couple of decades now. He makes no grand claims about the quality of Fuego on the whole, but generally recognizes that the divisive band will continue to be divisive.
“If you are wary of too many guitar solos, you’re getting hit with a 10-minute punch to the dome straight out the gate,” Tomson notes. “If you are excited for a lot of guitar solos, you’re blissfully rolling along.” Most of all Tomson celebrates Phish’s ability to connect bored suburban high-schoolers to a “larger social, cultural and geographic world/community.” Fuego, for Tomson, is a comforting reminder that “not only does [the community] still exist but is still flourishing.”
If you’re interested in more musicians writing about other musicians, Lou Reed’s breathless praise of Yeezus and John Gourley of Portugul. The Man’s takedown of The Marshall Mathers LP 2 are both well worth your time.