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Published: 2004/03/30
by Chris Bertolet

From the Ether – Amfibian

self-released

Tom,

How are things? Are you going to the Vegas shows? My buddy Jud got
assaulted by some snapper-head in the sports book in the Venetian this
weekend during the NCAAs and he thinks that the casino is going to comp us
our room that weekend to smooth things over. Can you believe it? Anyway, I
got your band's new CD, From the Ether, in the mail and I can't wait
to start listening to it. Your first album was terrific.

Your Biggest Fan, No Diggity,

Chris

***

Tom,

I didn't have a chance to start listening today. Actually, I had a chance,
but I feel like I still haven't talked myself out of expecting Phish out of
Amfibian. I did spend eight minutes meditating on the fact that Amfibian was
not meant to be Phish, however, so I feel strongly like I ought to be able
to come at your record with a blank slate by sometime tomorrow. Sorry,
dude.

You're So Very, Very Tall,

Chris

***

Tom,

Listening to the track "Atlantis" and I'm realizing the blank slate thing
isn't going to happen today. All I can keep thinking about is what kind of
song Trey would have written with these words (I know, I feel like such a
prick). I feel like it would have been something simultaneously darker and
lighter, if that makes any sense. But I did just catch myself bobbing my
head, which I rarely do before my third glass of Two Buck Chuck.

Yours in the Life of the Mynd,

Chris

***

Tom,

Bought a new amp today, this cool Fender Princeton 65. I didn't buy it
because Trey lived in Princeton, because how gay would that be. I bought it
because Trey plays Fender amps and this was the best one at my price point.
Anyway, I came home and cranked the fucker up and played guitar over your
song "13 Days." Your vocals sound killer on this track, like you're giving
your huevos a stiff tug; the sound reminds me of the singer from Crack the
Sky. What was that guy's name?

I Sleep in a Pyramid,

Chris

Tom,

"Sometimes" is okay, but "Blood on the Cactus" really surprised me. I
thought based on the title it was going to be a song about Mike Gordon's
Jones Beach photo shoot, but instead it described perfectly the time I got
whacked out of my mind on salvia and thought I had turned into saltwater
taffy. For about six months I was convinced that my soul had re-entered the
wrong (albeit oddly pleasing) reality. I never need to do that stuff ever
again, legal or not.

Sticking to the Teeth of Divinity,

Chris

Tom,

"Isolate" is a great Beatles homage. The horns are a nice George
Martinesque touch. Do I hear strings? They're not credited. I think I'll
listen to this one a few more times so I can be sure. I like this song a
lot. "Lambertville," on the other hand, might be the weakest offering on
the album. Given that it's the only collaboration with Trey of the bunch,
I'm hoping you'll find a compliment in there somewhere.

The List of Your Songs that I Love is as Long as Your Scarf,

Chris

***

Tom,

How oddball that Scott Herman actually wrote the most vintage-Marshall
lyrics on Amfibian's entire album ("Augustine"). You're toning down the
Jabberwocky nonsense, and Scott's tossing off bon mots like "pole rats long
for slither song" and "dragon's cry for thunderthigh."

As I listen to "Reason," I discover a theme, and feel somewhat proud and in
tune. I realize that all of these songs – the slow ones, the fast ones, the
long ones, the short ones, all of them – are written in the first person.
They all seem to pit Tom Marshall ("I" or "me") against some real or
metaphorical woman ("you" or "her" or "she"). If I didn't know you, and if
such a thing existed, I might accuse you of misogynistic solipsism. And if
I weren't conscious of appearing to be some kind of crazy stalker fanboy
freak, I'd tell you to "feel free to call me and let it all hang out, but
please call on the weekends because that's when I have unlimited minutes."
It seems like you could really use a good long sob.

You know what always makes me feel better? A tasty groove.

Could You One Time Just Kick It?

Chris

***

Tom,

You fucking kicked it! God, you finally kicked it! There's a rich
tradition of beware-the-dangerous-bitch songs, and I don't care if you were
being metaphorical here or not — "Storm" is an honorable entry into the
oeuvre. It reminds me of the lead pipe attitude, if not the music, of so
many great tunes on Exile on Main Street. "We lose all honor / but
that has no worth." Right on.

You remember I mentioned that Jersey band called Crack the Sky? The lead
singer's name was John Palumbo, and he was kind of like their Trey. I
recently discovered that they basically wrote "Tweezer" fifteen good years
before Phish ever did — it's this tune called "Lighten Up, McGraw," and it
just rips. I used to play air guitar to it after school in eighth grade.
Anyway, the point is that your song "Distortion" is a Crack the Sky tune
head to toe. No, this is not my roundabout way of saying that it reminds me
of Phish.

Your Helium Brain,

Chris

Tom,

My 2.5-year old daughter Lucy walked into the room a minute ago and seems to
be enjoying "Bloodpetunia." She may be mistaking it for "I am the Walrus,"
which she also loves. Now she takes a seat for "Mesmer," and just sort of
listens. She doesn't do this often. But now a low-flying airplane scares
her. She squeals, and she's gone as the song ends.

You've heard Quebec, I assume, being friends with those Ween guys.
What a great album. Nobody else I know can go from Motorhead to Devo and
make it work, shit, make it kill. And I don't even like Motorhead or
Devo. "If You Could Save Yourself" is like an open gushing vein. Anyway,
there's a chord over the chorus of "Cadillac" that is so Ween it's
ridiculous. I like "Health" better as a song, though, and it works great as
a closer. I imagine that if Tom Waits had a tune on the Barfly
soundtrack, it might sound kind of like this. Does he?

Wow. I guess I've finished the album. I'll listen to it once all the way
through tomorrow and then put together some really coherent thoughts. But I
like it, Tom. I really do. Thanks sincerely for taking the time.

With a Silver Tongue and a Tin Ear,

Chris

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