Sound — 8
The first pressing of the album will include a special bonus DVD of the 26 minute short film "Specimens of Beauty", directed by longtime Phish photographer Danny Clinch, that chronicles the recording of the album in Vermont. The piano-driven ballad "Army of One" comes off like a lost Steve Winwood cut. And the title track chugs along as if it were still the lazy, hazy '70s. On Undermind, Blake encourages Phish to do what they do best (experiment) and fine-tunes their worst tendencies (weak songwriting and instrumental overkill). does not sound like the effort of a band on its last legs just phoning it in. On songs like "Access Me" and the a cappella barbershop rendering of "Grind," the band appears to be having a lot of fun, which makes the breakup even more of a shock.
Lyrics — 10
The lyrics are suitably cosmic - most of them penned by longtime Phish collaborator Tom Marshall. Some lyrical clues, however, do suggest that Phish had an idea of what was coming, or at least that lyricist Marshall had some premonition. A driving new song, "Crowd Control," has singer Trey Anastasio noting: "The time has come for changes/Do something or I will." And "Nothing" paints this picture: "Nothing's ensconced/ Nothing's entrenched. What I hoped might linger is swept off instead."
Overall Impression — 8
Granted, the guys should end with a killer live album, and still may, but as studio swan songs go, this sounds pretty darn good. On the other hand, Phish should be saluted for their range of influences, their lack of commercial concern and for coming up with some music worth remembering in this final hour. These 14 tracks create the impression that the Vermont-based jam band still has a lot of life left. If the album were studded with duds, it would make the band's surprise move more understandable. As it is, it only adds to the mystery. Indeed, it would be best to skip "Undermind" and instead catch Phish in concert while that's still an option.