• Album Review: Phish - Rift (1993)

    22 Nov 2010, 7:17

    Phish - Rift
    Elektra Records (1993)

    "You'll never get out of this maze."

    Track Listing:
    1. Rift (Anastasio, Marshall) - 6:13
    2. Fast Enough for You (Anastasio, Marshall) - 4:51
    3. Lengthwise (Fishman) - 1:19
    4. Maze (Anastasio, Marshall) - 8:13
    5. Sparkle (Anastasio, Marshall) - 3:54
    6. Horn (Anastasio, Marshall) - 3:37
    7. The Wedge (Anastasio, Marshall) - 4:07
    8. My Friend, My Friend (Anastasio, Marshall) - 6:09
    9. Weigh (Gordon) - 5:08
    10. All Things Reconsidered (Anastasio, Marshall) - 2:32
    11. Mound (Gordon) - 6:02
    12. It's Ice (Anastasio, Marshall) - 8:14
    13. Lengthwise (Fishman) - 0:34
    14. The Horse (Anastasio, Marshall) - 1:23
    15. Silent in the Morning (Anastasio, Marshall) - 5:28

    Phish is a four piece "jam band" initially formed at the University of Vermont in 1983. In 1985, the line-up was solidified with the addition of Page McConnell (keyboards, vocals) and with original founding members Trey Anastasio, (guitar, vocals) Mike Gordon, (bass, vocals) and Jon Fishman (drums, vacuum cleaner, trombone, vocals), Phish as we know it was officially born.

    Phish, once self-described as "cow funk" by guitarist / vocalist Anastasio, are probably best known for their explosive live shows full of extended improvisational jams, amazing light design (by long-time friend / "fifth band member" Chris Kuroda), and interesting onstage antics (band members jumping on trampolines, playing chess with the audience, drummer Fishman playing vacuum cleaner,etc.). Many, however, remain clueless regarding the studio work of this band which has released 14 studio albums to date.

    In 1993, Phish released their 6th studio album Rift, a concept album which Anastasio described as being literally about a man attempting to fall to sleep while thinking on a "rift" in his relationship.

    Rift: The opening track of the record does not disappoint; like the majority of songs in Phish's repertoire, the lyrics were penned by Anastasio's friend and songwriting partner Tom Marshall, with music composed by Anastasio. "Rift" features vocal harmonies, which are often found on recordings by the band, with Anastasio and McConnell splitting lead vocal duties. The instrumental portion of the song is beautifully composed with an exceptional guitar work by Anastasio, in addition to an equally gorgeous solo on keys by McConnell. This track is put together superbly, all men shining in their roles and is a very good example of what Phish can do as a unit.

    Fast Enough For You: Contrary to what the title implies, "Fast Enough For You" is a very downtempo piece. It is transitioned into beautifully from the first track, and features exceptional percussion from Fishman (for whom the band is named). Lyrically, the song could afford to be stronger, but musically, the song is wonderful. The twangy guitar work is akin to what one would expect to hear from a country song, but it fits the overall vibe quite well.

    Lengthwise: Written by drummer Jon Fishman, "Lengthwise" clocks in at less than a minute and a half. In stark contrast to the two tracks preceding, "Lengthwise" thrives on its own minimalism, and is short, sweet, and to the point. While not the best track on the album by any stretch of the imagination, it serves its purpose quite well. It fits into the mix like a puzzle piece with interesting sound effects of snoring and almost eerie sing-song vocals echoing lightly, gradually gaining volume as the song progresses. It definitely gives the vibe of the subject falling asleep, and the lyrics are simplistic and appropriate.

    Maze: At over eight minutes, "Maze" is the second longest track on the album, one second shorter than "It's Ice". It is very intricately layered and has ultimately more of a "rock" vibe than many of the songs on the album with much heavier instrumentals than the tracks preceding. The song is an interesting view of the things running through the subject's mind, including the "voice in (his) head repeating the phrase: You've lost it. You'll never get out of this maze." The extended instrumental portion of this song is a wonderful listening experience, and aids in continuing the story of the man without ever becoming overly self-indulgent. It's a very fantastic track.

    Sparkle: "Sparkle" is ultimately solid piece. It seems at first to have more pop-rock sensibility than many songs in the Phish catalog. It does, however, devolve into an almost bluegrassy vibe midway through the song with the repetition of "Laugh and laughing, fall apart" and the tempo change. Not one of the better songs on the album, but it does still fit into the mix.

    Horn: There is more vocal harmony to begin this one, but when Anastasio takes over the vocals, the melody is extremely solid and pleasing to the ear. Much like "Rift", this song has a beautiful guitar solo, and amazing work by Page McConnell on keys. While not nearly as layered as many of Phish's songs, this is a splendid tune, and one of the best on the album. There are two very distinct parts of this song, but it feels a lot less complex than many of their other tracks.

    The Wedge: This song is a whole lot of fun. The instrumentation on this one is definitely more on the funky side, and the vocals are mostly delivered in unison by Anastasio and McConnell. This song sounds more like what people expect to hear from a jam band, with superb standout work by bassist Gordon. The melody itself is not particularly complex, but the song is quite upbeat in sound, and enjoyable.

    My Friend, My Friend: With a wonderful, almost whimsical extended intro, "My Friend, My Friend" is a gem. When the song really kicks into high gear, about two minutes in, it becomes darker. Ultimately, the song doesn't appear to tie into the overall theme of the album as seamlessly as many of the other songs, but this is made up for by what a superb song it really is. The repeated phrase, "My friend, my friend, he's got a knife" is very likely to get stuck in one's head for days, but in a good way. This track is one of the standouts of the album.

    Weigh: One of two songs on the album penned by bassist Gordon, "Weigh" is an interesting, more jazzy composition. As can be imagined, the bass work of Gordon really shines on this track. Gordon also delivers the lead vocals on the song. Melodically, it's a bit different than most of the material offered on the album, and changes the pace in an interesting way. This is one of the reasons the album as a whole is so listenable: Very diverse, but ultimately a neat package. It's very well done. In a way, this song reminds me a lot of the composition of many Queen songs, such as "Seaside Rendezvous" and "The Millionaire Waltz". It's not one of my personal favorite songs on the album, but it is a nice change of pace to be sure.

    All Things Reconsidered: This track is just about different in every way from the track preceding. It features Trey Anastasio's trademark guitar work, and sounds quite fun, almost carnival-like in places. A fully instrumental track, it fits very nicely into the mix, transitioning well into the second Gordon song on the album, "Mound".

    Mound: This is another more jazzy number from Gordon. Vocal harmonies abound, with Gordon ultimately taking charge of the lead vocals. Very uptempo, catchy, and fun. Gordon's songs tend to have intriguing composition, and this is no exception. It's absolutely wonderful, and the better of the two Gordon tracks on the album.

    It's Ice: The longest track on the album, "It's Ice" is, in many ways inferior to the earlier 8+ minute track on the album, "Maze". It is, however, respectable in its right. From the get-go, "It's Ice" is interesting, albeit a little repetitive in points. It feels as though it could easily have been a much shorter song if much of the repetition was done away with, and it doesn't feel as necessary to the song as a whole as it did in "Maze". Lead vocals are taken by McConnell who does a good job with the material. The musical interlude is not as strong as that of "Maze" either, (although there are certainly shining moments!) but the song itself does serve to progress the story quite nicely.

    Lengthwise: Basically a reprise of the earlier "Lengthwise" on the album, and also written by Fishman, "Lengthwise" is perfectly placed and assists beautifully in tying the second half of the album to the first. Eerily layered vocals make this (shorter) "Lengthwise" a bit more unsettling than the earlier one on the album.

    The Horse: Ultimately, "The Horse" feels in many ways much more like an extended intro into the following track, "Silent In the Morning". In fact, when played live, "The Horse" is almost always followed by "Silent In the Morning". It's very brief, but definitely fits quite well into the whole album.

    Silent In the Morning: The closing track to the album, "Silent In the Morning" is a very wonderful track. It closes the album extremely well, and is done proud vocally by McConnell with backing vocals by Anastasio. It feels like a fitting epilogue to the restless night of near-sleeplessness experienced by the subject of this album. It's a wonderful song.

    As a whole, this is a wonderful album. The whole thing is dependent on each part to function as a whole, and that's pleasing to hear from an album. The instrumentals by each member and their contributions to the album serve to make this one of my favorite Phish albums, and just a darn good album in general.

    GRADE: A-

  • Top 50 Artists Survey

    22 Nov 2010, 6:51

    1. What's your favorite song by 14?
    - Wake Up (The Arcade Fire)

    2. How did you get into 20?
    - I enjoyed his novelty sounding ukulele songs, so I downloaded his debut album "God Bless Tiny Tim" expecting to hear a plethora of happy songs. What I got was complete insanity, tragedy, and disturbing stuff indeed. I was completely obsessed with the album for at least a month after downloading it. It's actually pretty amazing. (Tiny Tim)

    3. Who is your favorite member in 8?
    - I'm honestly not familiar with any of the band members themselves. I just listen to the music. (Tuxedomoon)

    4. Whats your favorite lyric bit by 29?
    - "My brain is just a jellyfish in the ocean of my head / 'Cause I drank too much tequila and I woke up seein' red." (The String Cheese Incident)

    5. Have you ever seen 22 live?
    - No, never. (The Smiths)

    6. What's your favorite album from 10?
    - Probably Toxicity. (System of a Down)

    7. Do you own any merchandise from 3?
    - I have some Phantom of the Opera stuff around here somewhere which features her. (Sarah Brightman)

    8. What is a good memory you have of 7?
    - Seeing Q+PR in Cleveland and being a mere 9 rows away from Brian May. (Queen)

    9. Is there a member of the same age as you in 2?
    - I have no idea. Very doubtful. (Bells on Trike)

    10. When did you first get into 1?
    - I listened to very little of their stuff until last year, to be honest. I was familiar with them, but not really a huge fan. I got pretty into them last summer, and having the opportunity to see them in August of last year pretty much sealed the deal. I'm a phan through and through. (Phish)

    11. Who likes 4 along with you?
    - Probably the closest would be Rett, but Rett seems to think that ol' Ernie is a douche, so that's not even really a certainty, haha. (Trey Anastasio)

    12. Which song did you first hear from 15?
    - Hide And Seek. (Imogen Heap)

    13. What song made you fall in love with 5?
    - Either Ripple, St. Stephen, What's Become of the Baby, or Scarlet Begonias. (The Grateful Dead)

    14. Which song do you not like by 18?
    - I don't think there's really any that I don't like that I've heard, honestly. (The Beau Brummels)

    15. Why do you like 16's songs?
    - Her voice, lyrics, and interesting piano playing style are superb. (Regina Spektor)

    16. Where did you first hear 6?
    - In 2005 or something, I went on a downloading rampage of all of these "cool, obscure bands". One of the ones I fell in love with was CocoRosie. (CocoRosie)

    17. How long was 19 a singer before you liked them?
    - Longer than I've been alive, by far. (Talking Heads)

    18. Does 13 have a song that gives you a bad memory?
    - Love Song kind of does, actually. (The Cure)

    19. When did you get into 17?
    - When I was a kid, pretty much. Mom and Nana are both fans. (The Ramones)

    20. How long have you been into 11?
    - Since I was a freshman in high school, if not even before then. I know that I was mad into The Wall when I was a freshman, but I feel like I was exposed to their music and approved greatly long before then. (Pink Floyd)

    21. If 9 had a concert 300 miles away, would you drive there to see them?
    - Just to see Paul and Ringo? Fuck no. If they resurrected George and John for the occasion, then GOD YES I'd be there, though. (The Beatles)

    22. How many CDs do you own of 12?
    - I own all of his albums with Phish, solo, and with Leo digital format. (Mike Gordon)

    23. Does 21 have a song that makes you cry?
    - No. They have a few which kind of creep me out, but in a good way. None which make me cry. (Themselves)

    24. Does 27 have a song that makes you happy?
    - Vote On Tuesday always makes me really happy. Good stuff. (Tea Leaf Green)

    25. Does 23 have a song that makes you smile?
    - His songs aren't generally very happy, honestly! Twilight does make me smile because it's such a fucking awesome song, though. (Elliott Smith)

    26. What's the last song you've listened to from 28?
    - Beauty Of A Broken Heart, I think. (Page McConnell)

    27. Is there a song by 32 that you've listened to more than 30 times?
    - According to, no. I've not scrobbled one more than 30 times. Pretty sure that I've listened to Divine Disappointment over a hundred times, though. (Alias)

    28. What is a song from 50 that you've only listened to once?
    - I have no idea, really. Probably one of the songs I didn't really like stuck in the middle of her albums. I don't know. (Jenny Owen Youngs)

    29. Is there a song you are sick of hearing by 24?
    - I got way burnt out on The First Day of My Life. I doubt I could still listen to and enjoy that song, honestly. (Bright Eyes)

    30. What song got you into 40?
    - Well, this is the songwriting team behind most of Phish's songs - Trey and Tom - so it'd probably have to be a Phish song that got me into them. I must say, however, that the song which had me sold on their album (Trampled By Lambs And Pecked By The Doves) would have to be Limb By Limb, from which the title of the album is taken. (Trey Anastasio and Tom Marshall)

    31. What is your favorite single by 25?
    - I don't know if he really has any commercial singles, per say. I will say that I love The Tale Of The Private Mind. (Doseone)

    32. If 49 hated you, what would you do?
    - I probably would be kind of hurt, actually. (Amanda Palmer)

    33. What would you say if 42 or one of the members from 42 asked you out?
    - "Thanks but no thanks, Keller." (Keller Williams)

    34. Would you care if 41 had a boyfriend/girlfriend?
    - Not at all. (Neutral Milk Hotel)

    35. Who has the best voice in 46?
    - Jenny Lewis. (Rilo Kiley)

    36. Do you think 26 is/are good looking?
    - Not especially. (The Disco Biscuits)

    37. How many times have you listened to your favorite song by 36?
    - Many, many times. (Jefferson Airplane)

    38. How many CDs do you own of 30?
    - None. Digital. (Disco Biscuits; tagged differently I suppose - probably why they're on here twice.)

    39. Is there a song from 38 that makes you mad?
    - Nope. (Kimya Dawson)

    40. Which member from 31 do you want to see go solo? If 31 is only one artist, what would you do if they joined a group?
    - He is solo, and he has performed with groups. I suppose I love him regardless. I'm also surprised he's so low on my list. (Bob Dylan)

    41. What does your favorite song from 48 remind you of?
    - I try to rap over it all the time. It reminds me of that. (Kno)

    42. Did you hate 43 at first?
    - Not at all! (David Bowie)

    43. Does your best friend also listen to 33?
    - Not too sure. (Umphrey's McGee)

    44. Do you think your parents would like 37?
    - I already know my mom hates them. Les Claypool's voice creeps her out. Also, she detests Trey Anastasio's voice. (Oysterhead)

    45. Does 47 have a song that makes you want to dance?
    - I could dance like mad to some moe. (moe.)

    46. Have you ever seen 34 in person?
    - Nope. (Band of Horses)

    47. Do you like 44's name?
    - It's just their surnames, so why not? I'll say I like the name. (Simon & Garfunkel)

    48. Is there someone in 45 that you want to go out with?
    - Not at all. I'd hang out with 'em for sure, though. (Shpongle)

    49. Do you know anyone that hates 39?
    - How can you hate Milla Jovovich? (Milla)

    50. Have you ever danced to a song from 35?
    - Naturally. Really poorly. (Aphex Twin)