Album Review: Phish – Big Boat

By Diana Powers, Contributor

[JEMP; 2016]

Rating: 6/10

Key Tracks: “Breath and Breathing,” “I Always Wanted It This Way”

Since forming in 1983, Vermont-based band Phish has become one of the most well-known jam bands of all time. Consequently, they have garnered their fair share of fans and critics. Phish has a very cultish fan base; fans go to every show possible and heavily defend their beloved band in the face of haters. Serious Phish critics tend to be on the opposite end of the spectrum and actively hate on the band. Both fans and critics understand that as a jam band, Phish’s live recordings and performances are their specialties opposed to studio albums. That being said, Phish’s 13th studio album, Big Boat, is an album that will likely satisfy fans but continue to disappoint critics.

“No Man In No Man’s Land” is the most “classic” jam band song on the album. The funky, James Brown-esque guitars and long instrumental section are fun but have been done by every other jam band in existence.It’s a relatively enjoyable track but is void of any originality. In contrast, Big Boat’s second track, “Breath and Burning”, sounds a bit like a Jack Johnson song that didn’t make it onto any album. That being said, it’s uplifting and pretty catchy, and it’s one of the most pleasant songs on the album and is a fun listen. 

Parts of Big Boat such as “Blaze On” oddly sound like the soundtrack to an animated children’s movie while mostly everything else comes off as too try-hard. “Waking Up Dead,” for example, sounds like Phish trying really hard to cover a bad Pink Floyd song, which frankly does not sound good. At a staggering length of13-minutes, the closing track “Petrichor” is difficult to endure, even if the listener is a diehard fan. Filled with mainly orchestral instrumentals, “Petrichor” doesn’t need to be nearly as long as it is. The track would have benefited greatly by being half as long, maybe even shorter than that.

In Phish’s defense, studio albums are not their strong suit. A live performance would provide a much better example of Phish’s sound and capabilities. Big Boat is not a terrible album, but isn’t great either; it’s mediocre at best.

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