Trey Anastasio of Phish writes and plays dad rock, I’m reliably informed, which is (They say) bad. The phrase means ‘midtempo rock with wishy-washy lyrics,’ broadly — music with no ‘edge.’
If the term were reasonable, I suppose it would apply. I’ll be honest, I don’t love Trey’s new singer-songwriter stuff; he’s at his best with the band, has never been a standout lyricist, and tends toward soupy New Age stuff (lots of ‘ocean of love’ metaphors).
But ‘dad rock’ is a contemptible term. It’s not fundamentally about the music, but is rather an indictment of the musician, charging him with being demographically unacceptable — an unforgivably middle-aged man. Anastasio doesn’t pretend to be young, but he maintains a playful open spirit that his musical colleagues pick up on immediately. (People love playing with Trey.) That spirit isn’t interesting but it’s real, which critics hate.
He’s through showing off, is through making art for any reason other than to testify to his actual place in the actual universe in language that resonates with him.
Which is, of course, disgusting — like an old lady still feeling sexual desire, or a fat person undressing, or a child sharing an opinion. Know your place, Trey, and get out of the way (out of sight) of the angry ignorant anxious tastemakers who want The Next ‘Interesting’ Thing rather than whatever ‘love’ shit you’re peddling.
Anastasio’s music is lovely and welcoming, and for nearly 40 years has glued together a uniquely American vagabond community that hears something rare and authentic in Trey’s voice. He’s a dad, and rocks, and plays with a grateful smile on his face. ‘Dad rock’ is a term of dismissal and is beneath us.