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Old 12-12-2010, 01:31 PM   #5 (permalink)
ThePhanastasio
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Phish

Phish (The White Tape) - 1986


Track listing

1.) Alumni Blues (Anastasio) - 4:11
2.) And So to Bed (Anastasio) - 4:44
3.) You Enjoy Myself (Anastasio) - 0:55
4.) AC/DC Bag (Anastasio) - 4:09
5.) **** Your Face (Gordon) - 2:15
6.) The Divided Sky (Anastasio) - 1:16
7.) Slave to the Traffic Light (Abrahams, Anastasio, Pollak) - 4:35
8.) Aftermath (Anastasio, Holloway) - 2:54
9.) Ingest (Anastasio) - 1:37
10.) NO2 (Gordon) - 7:37
11.) Fluff's Travels (Anastasio) - 1:22
12.) Dog Gone Dog (Anastasio) - 4:03
13.) He Ent to the Bog (Gordon, McBride) - 3:56
14.) Run Like an Antelope (Anastasio, Marshall, Pollak) - 6:41
15.) Minkin (Gordon) - 2:59
16.) Letter to Jimmy Page (Anastasio) - 1:16

Bizarre? Very. Experimental? You betcha! (Particularly solo contributions by bassist Mike Gordon) A definitive introduction to the music of Phish for the casual listener? Not exactly...

While the album features its share of songs which have become live standbys in the Phish repertoire, many of these are very different versions from what those familiar with the band may be accustomed to hearing. For example, "You Enjoy Myself", an epic, intricate, and predominately intrumental song with live versions known to exceed half an hour, clocks in at less than a minute, performed completely a cappella. Another song with live versions typically quite extensive, "The Divided Sky", also appears as a much shorter track, at just over a minute.

Recorded mainly on a four track recorder over the course of three years (with full band tracks recorded predominately in the spring and fall of 1986), Phish's self-titled, self-distributed cassette (often referred to as The White Tape) is truly an interesting work.

Many tracks lean heavily to the bizarre, avant-garde, and occasionally almost unlistenable direction (the latter due mainly to the poor production quality), but there are a handful of gems more indicative of Phish's real sound. One such song is the opening track, "Alumni Blues".



One of the several songs recorded with the current Phish line-up intact, "Alumni Blues" is a solid, well, BLUES-Y track which is more on the catchy side. The song features some endearingly nonsensical lyrics, typical of many of the band's works ("Woke up this mornin', and I had those walking blues / I wasn't walkin' nowhere / 'Cause I didn't have no legs!") and some pretty nice blues licks from Anastasio. Interestingly enough, the band played the song at Goddard College, from which Anastasio himself had earned a creative writing degree. It was particularly fitting as in the chorus, he proudly proclaims, "I'm all right now / 'Cause I got a degree!"

"Alumni Blues" has been seen live quite often paired with the closing track, an Anastasio-composed instrumental piece, "Letter To Jimmy Page".



"Letter To Jimmy Page" was a hard-rocking guitar piece written by Trey, then 21, as a way to pay homage to one of his inspirations. The song itself seems a bit reminiscent of early Page, and seems to me to be a pretty nice "letter" for anyone to receive: Short, sweet, and solid. It's not one of the best songs the band ever recorded, but it does have quite a bit of charm about it.

Possibly one of Phish's more well-known songs, and a track used quite freqently within their live shows is "AC/DC Bag".



Based on the lyrical content, the song is not, as one would suspect from the title, about the band AC/DC. In actuality, the song ties into Trey's "Gamehendge" universe, which I will detail more fully in my review for his senior thesis. Many people have claimed (incorrectly!) that the song received its name solely because of the chord progression in the chorus of the song, which they believe to be "A-C-D-C-B-A-G". Close...but no cigar. The actual chord progression is "A-C-D-C-F-A-G"...hmm. Perhaps Anastasio was taking a swing at the band...

While these songs have been relatively normal in the grand scheme of things, (normal for Phish, particularly in their early days, that is) there is some weirdness...okay, a lot of weirdness...which goes down on this album. Most of it is, unsurprisingly, the work of bassist Mike Gordon who is a very interesting character indeed. I would be remiss if I didn't highlight some of those tracks for you. First, the obscenely-titled "**** Your Face".



"**** Your Face" is on the heavier side of the musical spectrum, almost seeming to recall very angry proto-punk influence. On the song, Gordon sings and plays all of the instruments featured on the track. The lyrics are delivered more as spoken words, and tend to be quite frank and amusing: "This guitar's gonna **** your face / 'Cause it knows how to scream." This song was definitely the creation of Gordon, but isn't even remotely as bizarre as much of his other work on the album. For proof, look no further than this next Gordon track, "He Ent To the Bog".



The beginning of this song is also delivered spoken rather than sung, but layered strangely with Gordon whispering as he speaks. There are bizarre sounds throughout, including but not limited to:
  • Channel changing sounds
  • An opera sample
  • A sound reminiscent of an alarm clock
In addition to this, there is also a great deal of a woman on the phone telling...hamburger jokes. Yes. Jokes about hamburgers; you read that correctly. There are also pleasant snatches of orchestral music, some slightly jarring and sudden brass, and moderately chill music, but the strangeness overwhelms the track. Near the end of the song, however, I did quite enjoy the music in conjunction with the orchestral sampling; it seemed very reminiscent of Danny Elfman in a strange way.

In many ways, this album isn't really something one could sit down and listen to everyday. The production quality is pretty shoddy, and the highs are often more grating than they need to be...which is particularly painful when they're intended to be grating.

With that said, it's worth a listen at least. This is a band which has made a pretty big name for themselves and done with live music things which were unprecedented. (The longest one band concert of all time, for example) This is that band in the earliest stages of their development, when they were lucky to perform in front of more than a dozen or so people. This is raw, experimental, and gives you the opportunity to listen to a band playing for nothing more than the love of playing. The guys were in their early 20s, college students, just having a good time...and they were amazingly talented even then.

With THAT said: This isn't even remotely close to being their best album. It's pretty rough.

Rating: C-
(71/100)

Last edited by ThePhanastasio; 12-12-2010 at 01:38 PM.
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