Local Wire


Last month at the band's final show in the New York City area, Phish invited special guest Jay-Z onstage for a couple of numbers, drawing a line between two retiring heavyweights of two very different scenes: jam-rock and hip-hop. Like Jay and his Black Album, Phish has proclaimed that the new Undermind will be the last non-archival record it makes as a band. (I'd bet that by continuing to release official live recordings, front man Trey Anastasio could send his kids' kids' kids to any college they choose.) Black powerfully condensed Hova's legacy down to tight blasts of urban noise and flash. So how well does Undermind represent Phish for future historians? Not terribly well, as it happens: Most of its 14 tracks are potent gestures toward pop economy, not swatches from the endless improvisational fabric the band works at in concert. "Nothing" is brisk, jangly roots-rock with a juicy electric-piano pulse; the title cut is a funky swirl of dreamy harmony vocals and producer Tchad Blake's trademark atmospherics; "The Connection" could be R.E.M. without the pretension toward art. Thing is, these guys are good at this stuff; these tunes offer headphone crackle along with mix-tape snap. Can I get an encore?
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Mikael Wood