Duds and gems found on Phish’s ‘Big Boat’

By SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press

Bookended with a couple of duds, obfuscating some real gems in between, Phish’s 13th official studio effort is an uneven affair.

Big Boat may leave longtime fans of the Vermont-based jam band scratching their heads at some of the choices made while doing little to persuade anyone new to the scene to pay attention to Phish’s studio output.

To be sure, there are songs worth remembering. “Waking Up Dead,” by bass player Mike Gordon, is a standout as are songs the band worked out live before recording, most notably “No Men in No Man’s Land.”

Keyboardist Page McConnell appears to channel outsider musician Daniel Johnston in the refreshingly ragged ditty “Things People Do.”

But “Friends,” the track that kicks off Big Boat, is an overproduced disaster that sounds more like a Pink Floyd outtake. “I Always Wanted It This Way” also sounds like a Floyd cast-off, and not in a good way.

Then there’s “Petrichor,” the orchestrated closer named for the pleasant smell that comes after a rainfall following dry weather. At 13 minutes, it goes on about 10 minutes too long.

“In a world gone mad, world gone mad,” Trey Anastasio sings on “More,” a jaunty rocker that should really spring to life onstage. “There must be something more than this.”

Indeed.