Trey Anastasio: Trey Anastasio

IF YOU’RE THE DE FACTO LEADER of a band long dismissed by critics, it takes cheek to open your solo debut with a chorus of “Summer’s comin’ and I’d like a review.” Okay, dude, here you go: Trey Anastasio is, against the odds, a pretty rad album. Over a decade plus, Phish varied their set lists endlessly, but their approach remained the same: four smirking virtuosi trading stoner jam jokes with their audience and one another. So you might expect their freed guitar genie to phone in the wank. But instead, with art­boogie ambition, Anastasio deploys a brass-powered eight ­piece band, various guest horn men (including neo-trad jazzman Nicholas Payton), a soul-mama chorus, and a 15-piece orchestra, in arrangements in which his juicy string-bending is just one flavor among many.

‘Alive Again’ and ‘Push On ‘Til the Day’ bushwhack some of the new-fusion territory that jambos like Galactic and Medeski Martin & Wood have been prospecting in. Other numbers hype up the gumbo blues patter of Little Feat, and ‘Money, Love and Change’ funks five times harder than Phish ever could. You also get two chamber-music instrumen­tals (‘At the Gazebo’ sounds like a telescoped score for the next Wes Anderson film) and a pair of handsome down-tempo numbers that step to emotions Anastasio has only danced around in the past: a heart-in- hand, breakfast-in-bed love song, ‘Drifting’, and ‘Flock of Words’, a communication-breakdown ballad so tender it earns its flute solo. The melodies mostly dissolve like cotton candy, but no worry: Anastasio is more note-choreographer than songsmith, and when the players are kickin’ like Rockettes, it’s all about the moment. Come to think of it, he might’ve meant he’d like a “revue,” envisioning his new band as a massive, mutable, movable variety show.

Megalomaniacal? Maybe. But it beats another 15 years of ‘Golgi Apparatus’.

© Will HermesSpin, June 2002

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