Pork Tornado

Paul Wong

Pork Tornado

Rykodisc

When Phish went on hiatus in the fall of 2000 there were many reasons circulating about why the band decided to take a break. One of the most satisfying of these reasons was the idea that the Phish guys wanted to grow as musicians and improve their playing with Phish by spending some time working with other artists.

Some of these collaborations were quite ambitious, such as Page McConnell’s electro-funk trio Vida Blue and Trey Anastasio’s self-titled afro-beat extravaganza. Failing to be nearly as interesting or enjoyable as these other projects is Pork Tornado, Jon Fishman’s opportunity to play fun bar tunes with his favorite Burlington, VT musicians. Founded five years ago, Pork Tornado has only now released a mediocre album of vocal-based tunes that take the listener from raucous funk to sunny country to standard blues.

The album’s most interesting characteristic is also its downfall. The decision to switch between songs written and sung by the different members of the band helps keep the record from sounding uniformly unexciting. It also means there isn’t any fluidity to the album, however, a glaring weakness considering the tunes themselves don’t stand out at all. The most promising cuts are supplied by bassist Aaron Hersey whose voice sounds like its been frying for years in the deep South rather than the heady Burlington scene. “Aaron’s Blues” is the last track on the record and it almost makes you wish that the whole album sounded as relaxed and chill. Otherwise Pork Tornado offers standard back-porch country (“Home Is Where You Are”) with lyrics like “Baby I’m at home as long as you’re with me” and old school New Orleans-esque R&B (“When I Got Drunk”) that finds sax-man Joe Moore singing “I’m sober now, I won’t be sober for long.”

It’s not so much that the songs are bad (although I personally found “Kiss My Black Ass” really bad) as much as they are unsatisfying. Pork Tornado has broken no new ground here at all, and phans looking for Fishman’s usually exciting style are left with standard two-and-four beats that any solid drummer could have pulled off. It sounds as though Fishman has lots of fun playing in Pork Tornado. Unfortunately it’s hard for the listener to be nearly as amused.

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