Phish albums | EW.com

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Phish albums

Phish albums -- From 1984's ''Phish'' to this year's ''Farmhouse,'' a look at the band's works

Phish albums

Phish are a live-performance animal; recordings are hit-and-miss affairs. Caveat emptor:

PHISH (1984-86, MAIL-ORDER ONLY)
Four-track demos of sophomoric blues parodies, stoner madrigals, and nifty avant-garde frippery. Highlight: The blend of solo guitar and a car crash on ”And So to Bed.” C+

THE MAN WHO STEPPED INTO YESTERDAY (1987-88, BOOTLEG)
a.k.a. Gamehendge, a narrated musical fairy tale that Anastasio submitted as his thesis at Goddard College. Widely circulated, intermittently cute. Highlight: the cheeky Mattel funk of ”AC/DC Bag.” (No grade; Goddard doesn’t believe in grades.)

JUNTA (1988)
The formula crystallizes: Frat-hippie fantasias high-fiving folk-rock guitar heroics and iffy lite-jazz fusion grooves. Highlight: the gnarly 25-minute improv ”Union Federal.” C

LAWN BOY (1990)
The definitive early Phish disc, with virtuoso interplay trumping lyrical shtick (”Stun the puppy! Burn a whale!/Bark a scruff and go to jail!”). Highlight: the wiggy ”Split Open and Melt.” B

A PICTURE OF NECTAR (1992)
Scattershot and show-offy, long on fuzak noodling and lead-footed funk. Highlight: ”Stash,” a spicy jam vehicle. D

RIFT (1993)
Concept album about a troubled relationship pegs Phish as the archetypal Boyfriend-Who-Can’t-Take-Anything-Seriously. Highlight: the muscular solos on ”Maze.” C

HOIST (1994)
Phish’s stylistic tour de force: faux-Motown harmonies, bluegrass twang, churchy chorales, overripe strings, Tower of Power horns, and some memorable song fragments in search of songs. Highlight: ”Wolfman’s Brother,” their boogie signature. C+

A LIVE ONE (1995)
Finally, what the phans crave: a live set. Longer jams, shorter jokes, six-string fireworks, even some honest rock & roll noise. Highlight: the epic ”Tweezer.” B+

BILLY BREATHES (1996)
The band strips things down and real songs start to blossom. Highlight: ”Waste,” Phish’s most poignant moment to date. B+

SURRENDER TO THE AIR, SURRENDER TO THE AIR (1996)
Outré side project features high-altitude improvs by Anastasio, Fishman, and jazzbo cronies, including Sun Ra vets Michael Ray and Marshall Allen. Highlight: the angular ”Down.” B

SLIP STITCH AND PASS (1997)
Live set with amusing Talking Heads and ZZ Top covers. Highlight: ”Mike’s Song”/”Lawn Boy”/”Weekapaug Groove,” arguably the most beloved Phish jam. B+

THE STORY OF THE GHOST (1998)
Tracks about dancing pigs and birds, dizzying atmospheric guitar textures, blurry songs. Highlight: the prog-rock nursery rhyme ”Guyute.” C+

THE SIKET DISC (1999)
A set of free-form instrumentals nodding to Miles Davis funk and Grateful Dead space-grooves. The most musically engaging Phish disc? Highlight: the itchy ”Insects” B+

HAMPTON COMES ALIVE (1999)
A six-disc brick documenting two complete Virginia shows from 1998. A teeter-tottering mix of musical comedy, epiphany, and tedium. Highlight: a suitably goofy take on the Beastie Boys’ ”Sabotage.” B

FARMHOUSE (2000)
Simple emotions get complex; complex music gets simplified. A studio high-water mark. B+