Hard-playing Phish shows new polish on 'Hoist'

April 15, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

HOIST

Phish (Elektra 61628)

As anyone familiar with their live show knows, the guys in Phish definitely know how to play. Writing, though, was another matter. Most of what passed for songs on the band's first three albums were long on jam potential but notably short on tunes. That's not the case with "Hoist." As strong as the playing is, the most memorable moments on this album are strictly melodic, from the funk/rock punch of "Down with Disease" to the mournful country strains of "If I Could." Even better, the band augments its songs with enough vocal harmony to make even the simplest song shine.

LIVE THROUGH THIS

Hole (DGC 24621)

After Kurt Cobain's suicide, the title of Hole's new album, "Live Through This," will probably take on a tragic resonance for many listeners. Hole's Courtney Love, after all, was Mrs. Kurt Cobain, and some of the songs, like the biting "Rock Star," clearly have their roots in their life together. But it would be a shame to see this album in such People magazine terms, because this is where Love finally shows herself to be a songwriter of considerable grace and intelligence. This album isn't just less abrasive than Hole's previous output; it's also tuneful enough that the best moments all make their point through music, not rhetoric and posturing.

THE MASK AND MIRROR

Loreena McKennitt (Warner Bros. 45420)

Because her roots are in Celtic folk styles, it's easy to underestimate Loreena McKennitt's pop savvy. But as "The Mask and the Mirror" makes plain, a large part of what McKennitt has learned from traditional music is how to write melodies that last. So as much as the otherworldly charm of her singing (imagine a less ethereal Enya, and you're in the neighborhood) may add to the album, it's the where-have-I-heard-this-before appeal of material like "The Dark Night of the Soul" and "The Bonny Swans" that makes this an album to cherish.

LUNAR CRUSH

David Fiuczynski/John Medeski (Grammavision 79498)

Some people think that the reason jazz fusion gets no respect is that it relies too heavily on flash. But after spending some time with "Lunar Crush," the new collaboration between guitarist David Fiuczynski and keyboardist John Medeski, you may decide that the real problem is a lack of soul. Not that Fiuczynski and Medeski lack it; if anything, it's the emotion and grit in their playing that keeps songs like "Vog" and "Quest" from being overwhelmed by their own harmonic complexity. Why, it's almost enough to give fusion a good name again!

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