Picks and Pans Review: Billy Breathes
For years fans have been touting this four-piece, virtuoso jam band as Vermont’s answer to the Grateful Dead. And like the Dead, the band—guitarist Trey Anastasio, keyboardist Page McConnell, drummer Jon Fishman and bassist Mike Gordon—are beloved by their devoted legions (Phish heads?) more for the communal musical abandon of their concerts than for their polished studio efforts.
On this, the sixth studio album the Burlington band has released in its 13-year history, Phish, with veteran producer Steve Lillywhite (U2), manages to harness some of their live energy and create a lilting, album-long groove that rocks like a comfortable hammock. Lyrically the group doesn’t take itself quite as seriously as the Dead sometimes did. In fact, Billy proves something fans have long known: Phish do laugh, even at themselves. “Theme from the Bottom” is about a finned creature that lives underwater and views the world from down below. And slackers will want to sing along with the chorus of the ironic anthem “Waste”: “Come waste your time with me.” Forget comparisons to the Dead. Phish is the Green Mountain State’s hottest combo since Ben and Jerry. (Elektra)