Expect a lot more posts about Phish in the next few years (or until they decide to “break up” again). Anyway, I saw a great article from a Paste Magazine blog about Phish. It’s basically a guide to Phish for non-phans. The article takes people through their studio albums and picks out the songs for the Phishheads and the songs for the Phish newbies.
The article has some nice streams of some of the picks. And, even though they got some information wrong, I have to agree with the majority of their picks. Here’s what their Newbie Mix looks like:
4. Birds of a Feather
5. Wading in the Velvet Sea
7. Brian and Robert
10. Character Zero
13. If I Could
14. Sample in a Jar
15. Fast enough For You
16. My Friend, My Friend
17. Silent in the Morning
18. Run Like an Antelope
19. Lawn Boy
20. Chalkdust Torture
21. Poor Heart
23. Golgi Apparatus
The only song on there I would disagree with is “Run Like an Antelope”, a mostly instrumental song. I would replace it with “Bouncing Around the Room”, though I’d replace it with the live version from A Live One rather than use the awful Lawn Boy version. I would also consider adding “Fluffhead” from Junta, but not “Fluff’s Travels”.
Anyway, I know I have a lot of non-phans who read my blog (assuming those people still read it… Ryan, I’m looking at you). Knowing that Phish is the greatest band to ever step foot on this planet, I am on a never ending quest to prove to everyone that there’s at least something about Phish you’ll like. Since I know a lot of people who could really care less about Phish, take a listen to some of the songs. If you know me and really want a more custom playlist, let me know and I’ll tell you which songs to check out. Keep in mind that this guide is only going through the studio stuff. Their live stuff is a completely different ballgame and does take some getting used to (unless you’re like me and know how great they are). Many of these songs sound completely different live, though some of them aren’t too far off their studio sound. Phish is a jamband, they improvise, they jam, they make shit up on stage. No two shows are ever the same. Many of these songs are just leaping points for their jams.
Now onto my issues with this article… The article completely rules out their final two albums, Round Room and Undermind. While I do understand why, to a degree, I think they do a grave disservice to the Phish newbies and non-phans they’re trying to help with this article. I’ll take it where the article leaves off and give a newbie and a “head” guide to these albums. I’ll start with Undermind, it’s the easiest.
The songs on Undermind lack much of the great song structure that the songs from their previous albums contained. Most of Undermind is very weak. Some of it is just downright crappy pop (as catchy as it may be). If you’re a newbie/non-head, check out “Scents and Subtle Sounds” (both the intro, Track 1, and the full song, Track 11), “Two Versions of Me”, a great tune that could even please the heads, and “Nothing”, a fairly poppy song with some nice lyrics (some would say they foretold what happened at the end of their 2004 summer tour). Those would be my main picks. However, if you’re really not into Phish (perhaps you do like pop music, nothing wrong with that), check out “The Connection” (total pop), or “Crowd Control” (slightly less pop, but has some good political-sounding lyrics). If you’re a head, check out “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing”, the only song on the album that has the full Phish musicality to it, or “Undermind”, a song they never played live, but should have. Everyone should listen to “Grind”. This song has full on barbershop quartet sound, something very difficult to do well, and they do it really well (they also perform songs like this live, but I don’t think they’ve ever performed this particular one).
Onto Round Room, which I happen to like (I don’t have a favorite Phish album, it’s just not possible). Newbies should start with “Mexican Cousin”, a light rocker with some odd lyrics, but it’s catchy. “Round Room” is loved by heads (they love most Mike songs), but it’s a nice fun little pop tune sure to be enjoyed by non-phans. The heads get this albums easily because the songs are mostly really long. They should start with “Waves”, a flowing song that basically sounds like the title. “46 Days” is a great pumping song, that might even be liked by non-phans for it’s rocking tune. “Wall of the Cave” actually has movements to it. It starts out with a piano intro and goes into something completely different and changes yet again before the end. Finally, there’s “Seven Below”, which became kind of a live staple in the post-hiatus years.
The only other issue I had with that article is kind of a geeky one. They reversed Lawn Boy and Picture of Nectar. Lawn Boy was actually their second album, released in 1990, and Picture of Nectar their third, released in 1992.
Anyway, as you can see from this article, Phish is for everyone. There’s at least some part of them you’d enjoy regardless of the style of music you prefer. They’ve played every genre known to man. They’ve played with people as varied as Kid Rock, Jay Z, Carlos Santana, gospel choirs, Neil Young, and Elvis impersonators. They’ve plays covers as varied as “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” (Will Smith), “Sabotage” (Beastie Boys), “Tubthumping” (Chumbawumba), “Highway to Hell” (AC/DC), and “Sexual Healing” (Marvin Gaye)… and they played them all really well. Give it a try, you might like it. I know jambands aren’t popular anymore (which might mean Phish tickets will be easier to come by), but Phish transcends jambands.
Phish for non-phans, a reunion playlist [Paste Magazine]