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Band on fire with fun

‘Fuego,’ Phish

For a band that made its name on being able to interact with one another while playing live, Phish has had a hard time translating that collaborative interplay in the studio.

They succeed on “Fuego,” the Vermont quartet’s first studio release in five years. It’s a fun, spirited, rocking record that has a cohesiveness largely lacking on Phish releases in recent years.

It actually sounds like they’re having fun – together.

On the nine-minute title track and opener “Fuego,” band members trade lead vocals and harmonize on a driving tune with Phish at its musical best, even though the lyrics are largely nonsensical.

“Sing Monica” and “Devotion to a Dream” bounce along with the catchiest of Phish songs. “Wombat” is a weird stinker in most respects, but so what? It sounds like they were having a blast recording it, especially the references to “Barney Miller” and its little-remembered spin-off “Fish,” named after the character played by Abe Vigoda.

The most intriguing song on the 10-track set, “The Line,” joins the pantheon of rock tunes about dramatic moments in sports history. It focuses on the story of University of Memphis basketball player Darius Washington Jr. as he steps to the line to take three free throws to decide the 2005 Conference USA tournament.

It’s quirky and rocks at the same time. But that’s Phish. That’s “Fuego.”

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