A military government that has illegally seized power. Popular in 3rd world countries.

From the Spanish verb juntar, "to join," the title of Phish's first true studio album, although tapes from pre-Junta days exist. I've heard fans say that you should listen to this one first, to understand their roots, and I've heard other phans say that you should buy it, leave it on the shelf until you've heard A Picture of Nectar and been to a live show to understand what their original intent for the band was. Either way, it's an interesting time capsule. There aren't very many bands who have enjoyed Phish's longevity, and you'd never know that this was the same band that put together Farmhouse, Rift, and Hoist.

Disc 1

Junta's first disc demonstrates Phish's proclivity to jam--there are no songs under three minutes, and four of the eight songs break the nine-minute mark! The lyrics are vintage Phish, which is to say, juvenile but catchy. They're full of beautifully-written gibberish, jabberwocky, and half-sense that captures the playful mood of the songs perfectly--the best example of this is their song Golgi Apparatus, which is musically amazing... the lyrics were written by Trey Anastasio and his pal Tom Marshal in 8th grade. Having said my piece about the lyrics (don't listen to this Phish album if you're looking for a jam-band with deep literate references like Rush!!), I'll move on to the reason everyone listens to this gem: the music.

Fee and Esther are fairy tales set to music that follows the story: cheery, upbeat and Caribbean for Fee; toe-tapping and terrifying for Esther. You Enjoy Myself, Foam, David Bowie, and Dinner and a Movie are all long, intricate grooves with many different sections, arranged, rehearsed, and "bolted down" to an agreed-upon length for the studio, but usually jammed in concert. Each track has so many themes running throughout, so many minor moods, almost musical paragraphs, that it's very tough to identify a song by its title just from hearing part of one instrumental section. Most pieces dance around several time signatures and feature solos by more than one group member. And then there's The Divided Sky.

I've got a special place in my heart for it--not only does it come from Gamehendge, but it has only six words. It's a remarkable piece of songwriting, and at almost twelve minutes, never gets dull. There are at least 3 teaser endings, showing off Phish's concert technique of tension and release, where you expect the song to end with a bang and then... back to a mild jam that builds up while you're not paying attention... and then down again. The constant mastery of the song's pacing and intensity, along with their sense of togetherness is that ineffable "it" that you try to explain to your friends who don't listen to Phish, and who can't get past the lyrics. The Divided Sky is a canonical example of what Phish are all about. Oh, and it uses the word rhombus in the liner notes. Rhombus is such a cool word.

On shuffle, repeat all, or just listening to a single track--stoned or straightedge--this album is fine background music for a quiet cocktail party, a night of cards, chess, backgammon, noding... or for staring at the stereo and listening to every instant of all of the music, and hearing Phish play junta--together.

  1. Fee
  2. You Enjoy Myself
  3. Esther
  4. Golgi Apparatus
  5. Foam
  6. Dinner and a Movie
  7. The Divided Sky
  8. David Bowie

Disc 2

More of the same, but with wildly varying quality. There are moments of brilliance that equal and exceed their togetherness on Disc 1, but there are moments of sheer crapulence and immaturity where you have to wonder about quality control. My initial sense was that they tried to capture what a live show was like with some of the live cuts... but then took cuts from a bad performance.

I'll get this out of the way: the last half of Junta II, taken in context of what they're capable of, sucks. Union Federal is a 25 minute Oh Kee Pah Ceremony where Phish manage to put together a coherent instrumental, but get lost in the noodling after about 8 minutes, and don't come back down for the rest of the album. The tracks before it, and the long transition from atonal to groovy are great--in fact, they're the last Phish I listen to on this disc--but the wanderlust should've been edited out. That's why it's a studio album! Onward, though: I have never heard a live version of Sanity and Icculus that I liked less than the unprofessional, slapdash efforts on Junta. I'm sorry if those are your favorite tracks--the silliness and humor of hearing them once is great, but it kills me to hear a band that can play The Divided Sky stooping to Sanity. Icculus is about tension and release, and I recognize it--but they've done it better live so many times that this version shouldn't even count as an attempt.

Now, on to the good: Fluffhead & Fluff's Travels are not two songs; they're a single, massive counterweight to Union Federal and a reminder that this band has skill with their instruments and as a coherent musical entity. The gently strummed and picked acoustic guitars, the mellow piano work, and the crescendo to the fireworks at the end... all brilliantly done. Fluffhead is a wonderful pair of tunes, all 15 minutes of them.

Contact is the last track before Union Federal, and makes a great addition to any mix tape you're working on for a road trip, especially to lighten the mood. Kids will sing it and love the repetition and silly lyrics. Your significant other will sing it and give you that look during the lovey-dovey verse. You'll sing along because you want to, and because driving with Phish on the stereo is a good thing.

Junta's second disc is a disappointment, but there are treasures to be found in the first three tracks, and you get it free with the first disc, which is worth the $25 you'll pay for it.

  1. Fluffhead ->
  2. Fluff's Travels
  3. Contact
  4. Union Federal ->
  5. Sanity ->
  6. Icculus

On to their next album, Lawn Boy!
...or, their most recent album: Farmhouse.

Frequently mispronounced by Anglophones. The 'j' has an 'h' sound, as in San Jose or cajones.

A country is more likely to be run under a military junta where:

  • There is no established legal system that is able to define and enforce law. For example, most of Africa.
  • The country was founded through the efforts of the military as liberators. For example, Algeria.
  • The civilian government was weak or directionless. For example, Chile.
  • The government is seen to be undermining existing institutions, behaving recklessly or engaging in corruption on a massive scale. For example, Pakistan.
  • There is little history of democratic rule in the country. For example, Russia (although Alexander Lebed failed in 1993).
  • The military is large, badly paid and/or not overseas somewhere fighting battles. For example, Cambodia.
  • The civilian government is ethnically different than that of the military's officer classes. For example, Fiji.
Junta is a board game published, most recently, by West End Games (which I think went bankrupt but has re-emerged with a new French backer and calls itself simply West End). It was created by Vincent Tsao in 1979 and was first published by Creative Wargames Workshop.

The game is set in a mythical Central American country called Republica of Los Bananas. As the name implies, the game is about a ruling junta. The ultimate object of the game is to siphon off as much American foreign aid money as possible into a Swiss Bank account by game's end. America's aid largesse is not infinite, however. The game ends when the treasury's stock of greenbacks has been portioned out.

The board is a map of the banana republic's capital. It's a patch work of city districts and as well as key buildings from which players build their power base: the Presidential Palace, military barracks, a police headquarters, etc. There are also foreign embassies which one can flee to when your population and so-called allies rise up against you in a coup d'état.

The game begins with the election of a President. Democracy, unchecked, rapidly takes its natural course. The elected President hands out appointments to the other players. Not all appointments are equal in power or prestige (for example the Interior Minister can kill other players easier, the leader of the Navy has little power in terms of boots on the ground and he is mostly relegated to the traditional, symbolic shelling of the Presidential Palace during a coup). The President also controls the budget, the funds which players must try to stash away in a Swiss account to win the game.

While the position of President seems all powerful, it's not. One aspect of the game is to try and bump off other players via assassination attempts. Each turn every player may attempt to assassinate another player. If the President gives one player too little money, he might try to bump off the President. If the President gives another player too much money to buy his loyalty, the other players will try to bump him off.

The assassinated player's unstashed cash gets transferred to the assassin. Having too much money makes one an attractive target for assassination for another reason. Each turn players have to secretly declare where they are. If they're at the bank, they can move cash to their Swiss bank account. Only money moved to the Swiss account counts towards victory points. So a player with too much cash showing might logically be at the bank. And then, BLAMO! (Being assassinated doesn't, however, kick you out of the game. You actually represent an elite family and you simply miss a turn while your family hashes out who will lead.)

Also, while it's good to suck up to the President, the other key player to have on your side is the powerful Minister of the Internal Security. The player in that position gets two assassination attempts per turn.

At the start of each turn, Democracy again rears its nagging head when the President announces his budget, the cash handouts he makes to other players. Each player gets to vote for or against the budget. A failed money bill means not only a vote of non-confidence but potential for war.

If a budget is turned down, players may band together, unleash their military forces, and try and seize key assets on the board to wrestle control from the President. During a coup d'état phase, insurgent players have 6 rounds to capture five key sites like the presidential palace, the treasury, and the radio station.

Players also sometimes, based on randomly drawn cards, acquire additional support in the form of popular uprisings like tequila-sotted dock workers just looking for a good riot (most of these non-player forces are a poor match for, say, the Air Force General's fighter bombers but good cannon fodder for blocking strategic moves by opposing forces and spoiling a last round attempt to seize the radio station).

A successful coup allows the rebels to elect a new president amongst themselves. If a coup fails, the President retains power and can execute one of the coup plotters (which allows him also to seize all the coup plotter's cash).

Junta shows up on various lists of Top Ten Board Games of All Time, right along side favorites like Monopoly and Clue. Despite enduring critical acclaim the game remains relatively unknown, much like Doctor Who.

The game's brilliance, appeal, and playability is paradoxically the very thing that limits its popular reach. Every advantage in the game is also balanced by a disadvantage. Money makes you an easy target. Being President makes you powerful but you have to make sure you appoint only the most loyal player as Interior Minister, for he has the sharpest and longest knife. Making a loyal ally too rich makes him more powerful. This ends up creating a game that's most enjoyable when you can gather 5-7 players. Who has 5-7 friends? Who wants that many friends? Monopoly, in contrast, can easily be broken out and played among 2 or 3 friends.

Another problem that limits Junta's scope is the subject matter has a certain stereotypical nature. It's not something a traditional game company might want in its catalog. For example an "Amateur Assassin" card features a drunk sombrero-wearing desperado hurling a grenade pin through a window while he mistakenly retains the relatively more dangerous portion.

Jun"ta (?), n.; pl. Juntas (#). [Sp., fr. L. junctus joined, p. p. of jungere to join. See Join, and cf. Junto.]

A council; a convention; a tribunal; an assembly; esp., the grand council of state in Spain.


© Webster 1913.

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