Oysterhead at the Aragon


November 5, 2001


So much for rock's newest supergroup actually being super. It would have been nice if Oysterhead was just plain listenable.

The all-star ensemble of Phish's Trey Anastasio, Les Claypool of Primus and Stewart Copeland of the Police pulled into a sold-out Aragon Friday night and thoroughly betrayed the promise of their recent album, "The Grand Pecking Order."

The disc is a collection of concise, inventive and tuneful (albeit strange) rock songs. But the trio's stage show was a sorry example of the worst sort of rampant wankery--an unending procession of long, pointless, "Look at me, kids!" solos of the sort that give jam bands a bad name, at least in some quarters.

Hungry for the return of their heroes, who are on hiatus, the Phish faithful ate up every silly, solipsistic note. And it was clear that, despite the accomplishments of each performer, Oysterhead was pandering to this crowd.

Anastasio was the prime culprit, indulging himself at great length with solos that never went anywhere. Typical Trey riff, delivered at top speed with a clean and uninteresting guitar tone:


Repeat for 15 minutes with minimal variation.

Meanwhile, Claypool's funk-punk bass riffs were largely lost to the notoriously muddy Aragon sound as Copeland cycled through his famous arsenal of fast snare fills and dramatic off-beat accents. But an earthquake couldn't have moved the deader stretches of instrumental improvisation, and one could sense this drummer famous for propelling powerful pop tunes feeling embarrassed about being lost in such a ridiculous musical quagmire.

Catholic theologians might disagree, but there is nothing inherently wrong with masturbation--it's just that it's best practiced in private. For its very public display, Oysterhead really ought to do some serious penance.

Jim DeRogatis, pop music critic