In the early 90s the world was introduced to a band that fed into young people’s desire to wear homemade clothes, eat burritos, sell jewelry, hacky sack, and most importantly, do a lot of drugs and dance wildly around to music that seemed to have no end. The band that brought us to this crazy state: Phish. Aww … yes, remember the days when there seemed to be no responsibility and we could travel to far off, exotic places like Plattsburg, N.Y., and Aroostook County, ME, to attend insane Phish festivals like the Clifford Ball and the Lemon Wheel? It was there when sleeping in tents for a few days, not showering, using absolutely filthy outdoor bathrooms, and experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs and dancing around in the mud amongst hundreds of thousands of people was not only expected but encouraged. It was then that Phish’s free-loving songs like “Free,” “Bouncing Around the Room,” and “You Enjoy Myself” forced all of us fans to reach to the far outskirts of our minds to groove to music that was like none other heard before.
Well, that was then, and this is now. Today, many Phish fans may have matured (or maybe not), but the band’s music certainly has not. Phish’s new studio released album “Round Room” does nothing to keep up with the times. Instead it adheres to the same old wacky lyrics and painfully long instrumental solos that Phish has always done. The album’s first track, “Pebbles and Marbles,” is a good 10 minutes of Trey, Jon, Mike, and Page just jammin’ out with loosely interspersed lyrics such as “Pebbles and marbles like things on my mind / Seem to get lost and harder to find / When I am alone I am inclined / If I find a pebble in the sand / To wish that it fell from my hand.” Huh?
“Pebbles and Marbles” lays the groundwork for what else is coming in the rest of the album’s 12 tracks. The fourth track, “Mexican Cousin,” offers more of the same silly lyrics and sloppy piano playing, but at least this song is pretty funny. It starts out with Trey singing, “Oh, tequila, I turn to you like a long-lost friend / I want to kiss my Mexican cousin once again / I’ve covered every emotion from happiness to sorrow / And the conversations I forget tell me about tomorrow.”
Phish is a very talented band, but this album just doesn’t do them justice. Perhaps it is the fact that they recorded this album in four days after only two weeks of rehearsals that makes it not up to par. I suppose that if you were partying at a friend’s house and wanted something light and easy to listen to this would be okay, but it definitely isn’t the CD that stays in your car stereo for weeks on end.
Phish has been around since 1986 and has developed thousands of loyal fans that will follow them to the pits of any outdoor music festival, so they must be doing something right, but this album seems uninspired. Phish needs to create music that stays true to their unique style, but at the same time offer their listeners something new and more substantial. Remember when we were all in high school, running around singing, “Oh, Fee / You’re trying to live a life / That’s completely free/You’re racing with the wind / You’re flirting with death / So have a cup of coffee / And catch your breath”?
At the time, this strange ballad was out of this world but hopeful and fun. If Phish could create a modern version of a song like “Free” it would be a wonderful, carefree world once again. Either we’re all just growing up and can’t detect Phish’s secret messages anymore, or they have just run out of inspiring things to sing about.
Cara Bilodeau can be reached at [email protected]