“Phish Seemed to Make Playfulness an Ideal on ‘Roggae’”

It’s funny to think about but it’s actually very, very rare to find a rock band hit it big and also adhere, as a rule, to a calm, or narcotic, disposition in their music. The Beatles were perky, The Rolling Stones confrontational, Nirvana prone to peeling the paint off the walls and Led Zeppelin delivering sonic blows to crush mastodons. Steely Dan, by comparison, the “chillest” big rock band in history that’s actually good, in my opinion, forever seems mired in underrated effacement. 

But is it a coincidence that, along with what almost seems like a lazy, or complacent, disposition, on “Roggae,” the band simultaneously don’t take themselves very seriously? (The entire band taking turns on vocals and the lyrics of extreme, droll self-deprecation validate this last aspect, in my mind.) Either way, it’s “Roggae,” as compared to the radio gargantuans like Nirvana, LIVE, Bush and Third Eye Blind, all of which were popular around 1998, that enjoys better continued playability, for me. It moves with a calm disposition at the pace of life in Indiana, where I live, and it’s built for longevity and steadiness, like a conscious figure which has seen enough to know the right pace and appreciate the moment. 

So with the jazzy “lounge” feel that this song summons (along with, let’s be honest, one bada**, funky bassline), and with the practice of bringing in each band member to sing one line per verse, we get what you might call a penchant for horsing around and having fun, and, simultaneously, a sort of kiss-off to the radio. Now, another element which should be appreciated here is the moxie of Elektra, which at the time was a division of Warner, to sign a band like Phish and then continually allow them to place eight-minute songs, songs about circuses, songs with vocal rounds, and songs about an old man wandering fatally in the forest, on their albums. “Roggae,” in light of this, almost plays as a sort of “found art” expedition, more or less — a completely non-commercial entity with the swagger and steadiness of great music, uninhibitedly jazzy until that quenching bath of electric guitar in the late-segment bridge. 


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