Phish: A Heartfelt Celebration Of Companionship

Throwing on a studio album by Phish can be like sitting in a dentist's chair: At least in theory, the experience begs for some sort of pain reliever. The Vermont-based jam band has long thrived on the live stage, though, with marathon concerts that highlight Phish's uncanny gifts for improvisation. (Be sure to download that May 8, 1993, set at livephish.com.) Studio albums? More Novocaine, please.

Monday's Pick

  • Song: "Backwards Down the Number Line"
  • Artist: Phish
  • CD: Joy
  • Genre: Rock
Phish i i

Phish's "Backwards Down the Number Line" finds the reunited jam band in a joyful mood. courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption courtesy of the artist
Phish

Phish's "Backwards Down the Number Line" finds the reunited jam band in a joyful mood.

courtesy of the artist

Now comes the exception that proves the rule: The leadoff track from Phish's first studio album after a four-year breakup is the strongest, most pop-friendly song the band has ever written. In "Backwards Down the Number Line," guitarist Trey Anastasio, bassist Mike Gordon, keyboardist Page McConnell and drummer Jon Fishman sound genuinely thrilled to be playing together again, as they crank out a five-minute rock 'n' roll anthem that's a heartfelt celebration of enduring companionship. Cornball? Absolutely — after all, this is Phish, which isn't exactly known for its icy insincerity.

Still, it's the music that matters, and Phish pulls off the music with ease. When Anastasio winds up for one of his trademark, reach-for-the-skies guitar solos — as McConnell shouts the wonderfully cryptic refrain, "All my friends, go backwards down the number line" — the hairs on the arms of Phish's naysayers will finally be standing on end.

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Joy

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Album
Joy
Artist
Phish
Label
ATO/Red
Released
2009

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