Elektra, 1993


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Question: When is a concept album not a concept album?

Phish has walked that fine line several times over the course of their career, most notably with their 1996 release Billy Breathes. But three years prior, Trey Anastasio and crew released Rift, an album which, if you weren’t paying attention, would only hint at a reoccurring theme. Coming off their previous disc A Picture Of Nectar, it was a slight step down, but still a powerful disc.

The overlapping tale throughout the album is that of a forlorn lover, troubled by a strain in his relationship, and the restless dreams he experiences throughout the night that challenge his view of whether the relationship could continue or not. The use of Jon Fishman’s rhythmic recreation of a clock ticking at various times in the album, as well as the two interludes of “Lengthwise,” help try to tie the story together.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Here’s the thing, though: you don’t need to understand what is occurring in the storyline to appreciate Rift—in fact, trying to follow along with what is happening as the subject of the album passes into different zones of his dreams sometimes weighs down the proceedings. Taken as a whole, though, the album might not be as experimental or random as A Picture Of Nectar. Whether this is a good thing or bad, I’ll leave up to the individual listener.

What can be told is that Rift contains some incredible music. “Fast Enough For You” is a track that coulda, woulda, shoulda been a staple of rock radio, if only the industry had had the balls to give it a fair shot. The same thing can be said for the disc’s closer, “Silent In The Morning,” which raises the energy level at just the right time. Maybe—just maybe—had these gotten the kind of airplay that “Free” would get a few years later, Phish would have gained a whole new world of fans sooner.

This isn’t to say that every song on Rift works as well. “My Friend, My Friend” has the feeling of a “You Enjoy Myself” retread, and isn’t as captivating as one might have hoped it would be. “Weigh” is a dark track featuring vocals by bassist Mike Gordon, which tries to inject some humor but comes off sounding a bit like free association in terms of the lyrics.

Ah, but these moments are few and far between. For the occasional miss, there are tracks like “Horn” (which took me a little time to warm up to), “The Wedge” and “Maze,” which give all the members of Phish plenty of room to express themselves while not overstaying their times in the spotlight at the expense of the song as a whole.

Rift is the kind of disc that, to newer Phish fans, might not seem to be the most approachable. However, it is well worth the time and effort to listen to, even if you choose to toss aside the loose narrative binding the tracks together. It’s not their greatest album, but it’s still damned good.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2022 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Elektra, and is used for informational purposes only.