Picks and Pans Review: The Story of the Ghost
Pop Quiz: Phish is like the Grateful Dead because:
A. Fans treat the band's long and jam-filled live shows like communal happenings.
B. Since forming 15 years ago, they've seldom been heard on Top 40 radio or seen on MTV.
C. They look like '60s throwbacks.
D. Their followers are known as Phish Heads.
E. They sound like the Dead.
The answer, as demonstrated on this ninth album from the Burlington, Vt., band, is all of the above except E. Guitarist Trey Anastasio, keyboardist Page McConnell, drummer Jon Fishman and bassist Mike Gordon perform percussive, guitar-driven jazz fusion utterly unlike the Dead's spaced country rock. Of the 14 songs here, only "Water in the Sky" rocks, although a couple of other tunes do have a funky, dance-able beat. All four bandmembers have fine, clear voices, but their singing seems wasted on Phishy lyrics (written as poetry by longtime collaborator Tom Marshall, then adapted to music by the band): "Birds of a feather are flocking outside/ Like whippets they dance in a curly-queue dance/ Of pulses and ringing and campfire chants." Huh?
Bottom Line: Little chance that they'll swim in the mainstream this time around
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