Thursday 12/10/2009 by zzyzx


So I was just listening to “Gone” off of Party Time and I was trying to think of what the lyrically darkest Phish songs are. These are the ones that come to mind.

“Esther” - it might be just a little too goofy to qualify, but it’s a woman who accepts a random gift and finds her life spiraling downhill rapidly the second she takes it.

“Free” - only if you accept that this is a song about drowning your wife and then proclaiming your freedom.

“Dirt” - almost definitely about someone killing themselves, leaving behind a despondent person futilely shouting their name into the wind and wondering if they could have done more.

“Brian and Robert” - Just staring at your walls, unable to see joy, just want to sit on the couch and watch TV… Yeah there’s a song that’s full of hope and bliss!

“Anything But Me” - yes, technically a song about the joy of finding someone to break themselves out of the insanity and depression in which they’ve found themselves, but, well, see the second half of the clause. How long will the door be held open for the tidal wave?

“Army of One” - As I wrote in the song history ( ) “This isn’t friendly empathy with depression. It’s a sneering attack on someone stumbling around alone in the cold, looking for answers to explain why his life has become a failure.”

“Let Me Lie” - Don’t listen to the bike lyrics, listen to all of the other ones. It’s miserable and bleak. The Party Time version might help as it has less emphasis on that. The singer is about to be dumped because his lover committed some sin that the singer doesn’t even know. He’s willing to forgive her unconditionally but her guilt is so deep that she’s still going to leave and let him lie on the floor depressed. Oh, and I guess he might ride his bike or something… It’s a really weird song, much more interesting than you probably think it is.

“Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan” - even though it was written before Whitehall, this definitely has new insight in the wake of rehab. It sure sounds like it’s written in the throes of addiction. “Got memories of being free.”

“Gone” - an ode to someone who has given up all hope, who is - at least metaphorically - bleeding through their head, who is suffering from sleepless nights and pain. The singer is trying to bring the person he’s singing to out of the hell they’re in, but “I’m sorry you’re gone/But you’re gone,” doesn’t give much hope for his chances. My copy of Party Time arriving the week a friend (who was in a similar situation) died in her sleep does give that line with the follow up of, “Left alone sleeping,” and additional creepiness that might not have caught my attention otherwise.

Honorable mentions: “Sparkle” (sorry but lamenting an upcoming wedding isn’t suicide), “Twenty Years Later” (it might be more about the fight than the fact that it obviously failed).

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