Tuesday, April 26, 2011

90's Hit Parade #70



Phish - Lawn Boy

Did I just lose the meager stack of credibility I had accumulated since I started this blog? Look, obviously, Phish are not the mind-bending, universe-expanding, game-changing band that their annoying phans (har!) believe them to be, but they're also not the horrible ear-rapists that people who've mostly never heard them think. How do I know they haven't heard them? Because whenever someone starts bitching about Phish, they always call them a "Grateful Dead rip off," and Phish really don't sound anything like the Dead. Phish sound more like a cross between King Crimson, They Might Be Giants and...I dunno...The Police (actually, they really sound like Gentle Giant, but who's ever heard of them?). The problem is, Phish are a band that are totally wrong about what their strengths are. They write good, occasionally great songs, and they're very talented musicians in terms of executing their off-kilter compositions and creating an appropriate mood for each song, but as soloists, they're boring as hell. They just don't have the chops, or an interesting enough style, to hold my interest for an 8-minute solo. I'm sure if I were to confront them with this critique, they'd be like "Oh man, we're not about showing off, you know, we're just trying to create a mood." There might even be some truth to that. Back in the late 90's, there was an internet radio station streaming random full live Phish shows 24-7. I listened to it at work a lot, and it was perfect work music: relaxing, pleasant but not too distracting. But to actively, attentively listen to live Phish is to be bored.

So I recommend their studio albums, of which Lawn Boy is by far my favorite. The songs are a bit more prickly than on some of their later albums, and even the long jam parts hold my interest. I particularly like the late night vibe on the title track. It has the same feeling as an early 70's mellow-out song like, say, Black Sabbath's "Planet Caravan" or ZZ Top's "Blue Jean Blues." Great lyrics, too, about going out to piss on your lawn in the wee hours and absorbing the dewy aromas of the plant kingdom.

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