Please Her with a Tweezer: the Most Brilliant Albums of Phish

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You’re in luck. It’s not too late for you to catch on to one of the most novel yet obscure phenomena the world over. Granted you’ll be what the Heads so endearingly refer to as a newb, the boys are still killing it and everyone’s welcome to tag along for the ride. Following in the wake of the Grateful Dead, Phish emulate little more than the rigorous touring and freeform jamming of their predecessor, providing a style uncanny, and of preternatural magnitude. Although their proficiency is exemplified via live performance, their brilliance certainly does not elude the studio, and for a decent idea of what you might get yourself into, here’s a list of their top 5 albums.

5 Joy

Yes, Joy. No, I’m not a newb, and no, I’m not crazy. Well, crazy is always debatable. So why Joy? Well, in all honesty, why not? Still pumping out an epic like “Time Turns Elastic” after twenty years should be reason enough. Or it could be showcasing a little calypso in “Sugar Shack,” or shining with such intense vibrancy on the crowd favorite “Light,” or tearing through the face melting “Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan”.” This album lets the world know Phish isn’t going anywhere any time soon, and I know I’m not the only one pleased by this. “Twenty Years Later” and they’re still upside down, and so are we!

4 Picture of Nectar

Keep in mind the need to reference live shows. Some tracks are sure to kill; others take rank simply by being rare, while a select few of the latter take it even further by embodying elaborate compositions. There is a tension within this type anticipation. This is why we love “Stash,” so serpentine and intricate, or “Glide,”idiosyncratic yet complex. “Tweezer” and the reprise, on the contrary, follow suit for the face peeling intensity that is part of the covenant, and “Poor Heart” again highlights Gordon’s love for bluegrass. “The Mango Song” provides the much-desired weirdness, and “Llama” brings the mind numbing speed and accuracy so craved. This album pretty much does it all.

3 Junta

To be fair, it is sort of a three-way tie for the number one spot, but to be functional… The list. Anyway, it’s about time I discuss Trey’s love of story telling, and what better tracks to consider than “Fee” and “Esther”. Vivid, imaginative, and accompanied by perspicacious musicality, these tracks create realities entirely unto themselves. “Fluffhead” is another one guaranteed to light up any crowd, playful and up-tempo, with humorous lyrics and a whimsical climax and “Golgi Apparatus” fits nicely into a similar discussion. Again, I could ramble on, listing tracks like the epic “You Enjoy Myself” or the dynamic “Divided Sky,” but maybe you should just listen.

2 Rift

Poor Fishman! This album has him working overtime immediately on “Rift” and testing his capabilities fully on “Mound,” and we love him for it. If you can’t appreciate the craftsmanship there, I simply haven’t the proper emotion to deal with you. “Sparkle” and “Maze” will both undoubtedly evoke some feelings of panic and anxiety, but delightfully so. And, to avoid listing every track on this multifaceted album, I will end by saying “My Friend, My Friend” is exactly the insanity that puts this one up there with Lawn Boy.

1 Lawn Boy

Two songs set this album apart, “Split Open and Melt” and “Bathtub Gin.” Funky, jazzy, sort of eerie and off putting; you’ve not experienced such a mesh of madness and finesse. As if these two weren’t enough to convince you, “Run Like an Antelope” is masterfully designed to be a crowd pleaser, dynamic and multi-climactic, with an evolution unfolding over the course of several sections. “Lawn Boy” cools it off with some love for keyboardist Page; unquestionably a highlight for any and every Head, and the blue-grass-song-on-speed “My Sweet One” displays their aptitude for versatility and precision.

Heads out there know this is an impossible argument, but I can’t cover the best 16 of 16 albums, so settle down. If you’re not too blown by my not including Story of the Ghost or Hoist, or if you have any other serious qualms and you think you can type coherently, have at it, just keep it short. As for the newbs, keep quiet and don’t grow up to be wooks.

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