Phish – Billy Breathes
Phish has always been a difficult group to categorize; it is almost impossible to pin a label on the band and simply describe them with a few words like “rock and roll.” The band’s new album, “Billy Breathes,” shows the versatility of the band and gives new evidence of this difficulty of describing the group’s style.
Phish is often described as the successor to the Grateful Dead. To many people the Dead was a rock and roll band, but in fact a Dead concert would include elements of rock and folk and even jazz. In this way, Phish is like the Dead.
A plethora of the cuts on this new album are based on jazz styles. The hard beat of rock and roll is virtually absent and the listener hears long phrases in which the tune segues between the piano and guitar in subtle ways which are not usual for the ordinary “rock” group. The excitement is not a hard beat but in the variations which the band gives to every melody.
Many listeners may think the quiet approach of “Billy Breathes” is an effort by Phish to go commercial. Although any witty Phish “phan” may disagree because the band’s prior album, “A Live One,” (which went gold) finally gave the rock mainstream the opportunity to hear what Phish was all about. Many fans would also wonder why Phish would need to go commercial, because anyone who has been to a Phish show knows that the band sells out at every venue it plays. It is a band that has succeeded in carving out its own unique position in the rock world. It is not likely that Phish’s new phase is commercially motivated, instead, it is simply continuing to find new musical expressions.