Cars Trucks Buses
Theme from the Bottom
Phish was long touted as the "heirs to the Grateful Dead," but the musical heritage of the two bands was nearly as distinct as the Dead's San Francisco origins were from the New England roots of Trey Anastasio's more modern outfit. While both bands were characterized by their passion for live, improvisation-laced workouts, Phish was rooted in more eclectic, often jazz-based sensibilities. Yet the band also sometimes shared the Dead's penchant for not quite capturing the electricity of their interplay on their studio efforts. Released in 1996, their sixth album triumphed over that shortcoming by focusing more intently on songs, a tack ably guided by Steve Lillywhite, the producer who had helped shape the sonic personalities of so many UK bands (including U2 and Simple Minds) in the '80s and beyond. "Theme From the Bottom" still leaves them plenty of space to explore, but it's the economic energy of "Character Zero" and "Free" (which would become fixtures of the band's live repertoire), as well as the lilting beauty of the ballad "Talk." that help make this album one of the band's best.