Skip the Goodbyes – Amfibian
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Most people didn’t notice, but Amfibian’s last release, From the Either, was a major step up from anything Tom Marshall had done on his own before. Featuring tighter songs and a higher quality of musicianship, Ether was a joy to listen to. To those that did notice, the fact that Amfibian’s new Skip the Goodbyes is a major step up from its predecessor will come as no surprise. What is a surprise is how Amfibian continues to be overlooked by those that would surely enjoy them the most while Tom Marshall continues to churn out songs that would rock arenas if they were only to be sung by a certain unnamed redhead (“High Watermark” in particular would be quite popular and would surely push fifteen minutes).
Released earlier this month, Skip the Goodbyes features more of what fans discovered on From the Ether. The album contains lyrics that are unmistakingly Tom Marshall while Anthony Krizan’s guitar playing continues to provide the perfect complement. Krizan has taken on an increased role on this album, and the album benefits from his increased contributions. Whether on full-on rockers such as “Bystander” and “High Watermark” or more restrained ballads like “Teresa” and “Lonely and Low,” Krizan’s impact is impossible to miss and impossible to overstate. One minute melodic and tasteful, the next raucous and thrashing, his playing is a pleasure to listen to and helps elevate the album to a level it otherwise couldn’t achieve. This is not to suggest the other musicians are an afterthought. In fact, the horns represent an indispensable addition emphasizing the funk in songs like “Nothing New,” the lyrics of which should provide Phishheads with quite a bit to talk about (plus, there is an unusually familiar guitar on the title track, provided by Trey Anastasio himself).
But that is not to say that this isn’t Marshall's band, because it is. Those fans who fell in love with Phish for the songs and lyrics and not only the musicianship of the four individuals onstage, will be reassured by “Thunderclap,” among others. The Floydness of Marshall's Amfibian Tales debut can be found again on Skip the Goodbyes, and “Thunderclap” is one place such influences are blatant, evoking both the British band’s Meddle era while nodding to the band’s post-Roger Waters days.
But, besides references to both Floyd and The Beatles (“Sheep”), the album is Amfibian through and through. The band is better, the songs are stronger, and the album benefits as a result. Unfortunately for all of us, Amfibian doesn’t tour nearly enough and so many are left with the album as their sole method of accessing the songs. After all, its Marshall's songs that fans fell in love with night after night. And don’t be mistaken; they are his songs and Amfibian convincingly proves that. And now fans have another new album filled with thirteen songs they can fall in love with, just as they did before.