Junta Puts Phish in a Class of its Own Among “Jam Bands” to Come
Junta, the two disc set released by Phish in 1988, offers all listeners a look into the band’s early days. Before the term “jam band” was coined, lead guitarist Trey Anastasio described the band as a prog-rock band. The bands work in the progressive music world will always be undermined by the stereotypical hippie jam band label tied to them; this is a truly a shame. Junta shows us that the band is so much more than just some noodley, mindless jam band. The album starts off strong with “Fee”, the silly and whimsical yet powerful song of a weasel and his love. Like many Phish lyrics, the band’s approach is silly and whimsical. Sometimes Phish lyrics don’t make much sense, and I believe this is to provide a greater focus on the long, and extensive beautiful segments the band is known for. However, they place these lyrics selectively. Some songs feature more serious lyricism than others, and it should be fairly obvious to the listener. And sometimes they blend a serious storyline with whimsical lyrics. “Fee” is a great example of this. While silly and weird, the song still has catchy lyrics and a story that is easy for the listener to follow. The song is about a weasel but still touches on the concepts of love, loss, and tragedy. But if the band wants you to just focus on the music, you’ll know. Like other progressive rock bands, Phish styled many of their songs in a way that a jazz musician or classical music composer would. Many different segments and parts make up a long, complicated piece of music. While new ears to the band may not be able to hear the difference, a seasoned listener can tell almost instantly. When the band improvises, it has a more jazzy flow to it. The musicians interact in their own language, a self described conversation where each member says his part and the other member responds to it. When the band is playing a pre-composed song, the changes between the...
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