Phish - Undermind

Have you heard that Phish is calling it quits? Of course you have. Did you hear the new musical confirmation that this is a good thing? No? Then get Undermind and you'll understand.
Granted, Phish's least-impressive studio work is still better than 99% of the popular music that gets manufactured. Expectations and the knowledge of the band's true abilities prevent me from completely enjoying this new effort. I also just witnessed the band's farewell tour opener at a theatre here in North Carolina, which made this album seem even more insignificant to me. The show ws amazing. Undermind is not.

Phish fans will want to add this to the collection, because the 26-minute film Specimens of Beauty is truly a must-have. Included on a bonus DVD and shot by noted photog Danny Clinch, Specimens is a snow-covered look at the recording of the album with producer Tchad Blake at the famous "Barn" in Vermont.

The album contains little material to stoke enthusiasm about it's content. A couple of gems are unveiled in the form of "A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing" (a snarling, darkly-lit journey of distortion and hearty improvisation) and "Undermind" (relentlessly Phishy chunk-funk with crafty wordplay), but most fan's ears will cringe at the sight of a tracklist dotted with noted bathroom songs. "Crowd Control", "Two Versions Of Me", "Secret Smile", and the newly-penned "Nothing" are classic have-a-seat songs that leave me with no desire to hear them again, on album or otherwise.

The first single, "The Connection", is a pointlessly poppy exercise that clocks in just under three minutes, evoking the "at least its short" response from many fans. Page McConnell's anthemic "Army Of One" and the driving energy of "Scents And Subtle Sounds" are enjoyable and have great moments, but they are merely part of a mildly enjoyable listening experience that only consumes a track-skipping 30 minutes.

The album's sound quality is rich and focused, and listeners should expect nothing less from amazing producer Tchad Blake's skills. The combination of the band and Blake should have gleaned a better album than this, though. Undermind will squeeze nicely into the cache of Phish studio releases that are already sitting on your shelf serving a purpose more akin to encyclopedias than albums.

--Bryan Rodgers