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Phish - Junta CD (album) cover




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4.08 | 87 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars PHISH is a band originating from the great state of Vermont, USA where a bunch of enthusiastic young musicians decided to get together and jam when they weren't studying at the University. The amazing thing about this band is that all four members ? Trey Anastasiio (guitars, lead vocals), Mike Gordon (bass, vocals), Jon Fishman (percussion, vocals) and Page McConnell (keyboards, vocals) played together for over 20 years before they took a break, so no lineup changes in a band for that duration indicates that these guys love to play together and their music definitely has that vibe on their debut album JUNTA (pronounced JUHN-tuh). This album originally came out in 1988 on cassette only and was independently released but it caught on fast in the underground college scene and was quickly officially released in 1989. Since then the album has become a classic and has gone platinum.

This is an eclectic album to say the least where everyone can find something to like and more often something to hate. The songs zigzag all over the musical map and it often seems like another band has taken over and inserted a song into the roster. The very first track "Fee" immediately made me think of the ska punk band Sublime, but wait, this song was recorded the very year that that band formed on the opposite coast, so who knows where this one came from. The musical trajectory then takes a bold and daring turn into the realms of progressive jam rock. In fact a majority of these tracks, especially the longer ones sound like they may be equally inspired by the jamming talents of the Grateful Dead, the zaniness and jazz-fusion of Frank Zappa and the dual guitar assault of a slightly warped version of the blues rock of Wishbone Ash or the Allman Brothers. There are times I feel a Steely Dan vibe in the mix as well. The lyrics verge on the ridiculous, the mundane or downright silly. The song "Contact" is a little dittie about how tires make contact with the road with a clear Jimmy Buffett style musically speaking.

Being the eclectic puPPy that I am I actually quite like this album. It tugs on many of my musical (in)sensibilities. It has the progressive prowess of the best instrumental wankers out there and a nary-a-care zaniness that would make Zappa himself a proud uncle. The Grateful Dead has never really been my psychedelic cup of tea but the way PHISH sew all this together is done with a nice sense of style and passion that oozes youthful energy in the college scene. Although this album has its ups and downs and glaring contradictions, I find myself enjoying it for most of the ride. The album was originally released without the tracks "Union Federal," "Sanity" and "Icculus." The newer versions contain them and I highly recommend these bonus tracks because "Union Federal" alone is a 25 minute sprawling prog jam that is one of the best tracks on the album. Over the years I have only heard a smattering of PHISH songs that have sparked my interest but this debut album has quite a few that meld all my craziness into one semi-cohesiveness. Recommended for eclectic heads who don't mind a plethora of disparate influences in the pot where any particular ingredient can boil over when least expected.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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