SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Junta (1989).
I’ve been listening to a lot of live Phish as of late and thought it would be interesting to see if there was truth to the adage that Phish is great live but not so great in the studio. So here is their first official album. It was released as a double album, and when it was reissued on CD some bonus material was added. Incidentally, I just found out that the album if pronounced “juhnta” and not “hoonta” because of the engineer they worked with.
The album starts with “Fee” which is a fun song (the lyrics are wonderfully weird) and they don’t play it all that much so it’s a treat to listen to. I enjoy the way the verses sound compressed and distant but the choruses are nice and full. There’s also some funny and interesting sound effects (some of which accentuate the action) throughout the song. This sound effects and noises processing has been with Phish from the beginning and they kept it up through many of their earlier, less mature albums. “You Enjoy Myself” is a live favorite so it’s fun to hear it in this version. As with a lot of their earlier records, this song sounds a little stiff, especially if you’ve heard the wild live versions. It’s not bad at all, indeed, it has a perfectionist quality to it—the time changes are perfect, the solos are flawless. Indeed, it’s quite an achievement (and in this more polished version it sounds more like Yes than their live versions ever did). Interestingly when we finally get to the lyrical section (about 5 minutes in) it’s quite a bit slower than they play live.
“Esther” sounds much more theatrical here. The music is gorgeous and there are lots of effects and backing vocals which bring a bit more menace to the song than the live version possesses. This also had a very prog rock sensibility to it. “Golgi Apparatus” has a lot more in the way of backing vocals than the live version. And “Foam” has some changes: the bass is especially loud and funky and yet the pace is so much slower than I’m used to. The odd thing is the kind of stiff way that the lead vocals enunciate everything. And the deep voice (Mike?) is quite amusing at the end of the song. “Dinner and a Movie” is a fun and silly song and this version is especially enjoyable because of the backing voices and chatter and laughter which illustrate the dinner (and presumably the movie).
“Divided Sky” has a beautiful melody and it’s nice to hear it played so pretty and simply here. But again the remarkable thing is how much slower the song is here. “David Bowie” also sounds great (there’s all kinds of weird sounds effects in the background of the (very long) soloing section—I have no idea why or what they might be). The solo sounds like it was maybe done in one take as there’s a couple spots where it’s not “right,” (whether flubs or intentional is hard to say) but it still sounds terrific. In fact a number of tracks have some little flubs which makes it seem like they either didn’t mind or tried for a more live feel.
“Fluffhead” sounds solid and like the live versions. What I never realized until I actually paid attention is that the bulk of the music (the extended jam session) is called “Fluff’s Travels.” “Flulfhead is only 3 and a half minutes, while “Fluff’s Travels” is over 11 minutes (it opens with the beginning of the guitar solo–the catchy riff that starts the lengthy jam). “Contact” is a delightfully silly song about tires and cars that I’ve always enjoyed and find myself singing often because the melody is so simple.
What’s funny is that the end of “Contact” kind of bleeds into “Union Federal” which is listed as a live song (and clocks in at over 25 minutes long). This “Union Federal” is an improvisational jam (or an Oh Kee Pah Ceremony—where the guys would get together with instruments (and other things) and jam for a time. This song is weird with many layers—and is rather typical of one of Phish’s weirder jazz –flavored improv sections (meaning that there is a lot of dissonance and noise). It’s quite jarring especially after all of the melodies and prettiness of the album proper. And I can see a lot of people not being happy about its inclusion. “Sanity” on the other hand is a fun song. In the intro, they keep claiming the song is by Jimmy Buffett. They are clearly very silly in this setting, especially at the end of the song. The final track is a live version of “Icculus” the song which is pretty much all buildup. In the intro they quote U2 “This is red rocks, this is the edge.” But the “joke” of this version is that Trey keeps postponing the name of the person who wrote the name of the Helping Friendly Book–stalling in any way he can. As the song gets louder and louder and more absurd, the guys are even more frenetic. It takes over 3 and a half minutes to get to the proper lyrics of the song. And then the song itself is about 15 seconds. Absurd nonsense. But very amusing.
So this is quite a solid debut album, and the amount of songs that they still play live shows how fond everyone is of it.
[READ: October 2, 2013] “Wrong Answer”
I didn’t hate Algebra. I rather like solving puzzles so I enjoyed solving for x. Algebra II I recall being more daunting and less fun with lots of formulae to memorize. And, unlike everything promised, I have never used any of it in my adult life (geometry and angles, sure, but not logarithms). According to this article the new United States CORE curriculum (which I know my son is dealing with already in 3rd grade) says that high school graduates must have Algebra II.
The reasons for this intensification in the studying of math are many (starting around the time of Ronald Reagan) but the current push comes from Arne Duncane, the U.S. secretary of education. He believes that “algebra is a key, maybe the key to success in college. Students who have completed Algebra II in high school are twice as likely to earn degree as those who didn’t.” Whether or not that is true, those of us who earned a degree in nonmathematical subjects certainly were not aided by this class. But Nicholson Baker explains that the reason this might be true is that for most colleges, Algebra II is a prerequisite. Ergo: if you don’t take Algebra II you can’t get into college because colleges require Algebra II. That, for those who may not have taken logic–a far more useful course than Algebra II in daily life–is called a tautological fallacy. [Indeed, I maintain that all high school students should have to take a course in logic because they would then be able to see through all of the builshit that politicians spill and claim to be logic. Like the current (as I type this) government shutdown in which Republicans are claiming they didn’t want to shut down the government when they in fact signed papers saying they were going to shut down the government).]
The real problem with Duncan’s postulate that everyone should take Algebra II (“airplane mechanics do complex measurements and work with proportions and ratios…X-ray technicians calculate time exposures to capture the cleanest possible image. Most factory workers need to understand Algebra II or even some trigonometry to operate complex manufacturing electronic equipment”) is that even if that were true (I don’t have any idea of it is or not), most people do not do those kinds of jobs. And even if they did know higher math, they would still be salesmen, graphic artists, librarians, preschool teachers, custodians and many many other jobs that in no way require math. (more…)
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