My Top 1000 Songs #319: Brian And Robert
Another admittedly idiosyncratic pick, "Brian And Robert" is unlikely to get a shout-out from even diehard Phish phans, much less normal, rational people. In the Phish pantheon, it's one of their songs that least translates into the favored live setting, a brief vocal showcase free of the band's legendary jams. But as a sucker for harmonies--and yeah, I'm a real sucker for harmonies--it's always captivated me, in some ways coming across like a sequel to the Velvet Underground's "I Found A Reason" (from the Velvets' Loaded LP, which Phish coincidentally covered in its entirety in 1998, the same year this track was released) (sorry, I'm babbling here). Plus it feels deeply personal, a song they played at the first Phish show I saw, an acoustic performance at one of Neil Young's annual Bridge School benefit shows, helping initiate my quarter-century-and-still-going-strong love for the band.
The song is ostensibly named for Brian Eno & Robert Fripp. The title has no relationship to the lyrics, a downbeat yet affectionate ode to a lonely, stay-at-home guy ("if you're just staring at your walls... then this one is for you"). But you can trace a bit of a thread from the pioneering ambient work of the duo to the entrancing sonics here, the hypnotic interwoven tape loops replaced by gentle harmonies and the keyboard undercurrent. It's a lovely track, underappreciated and worth discovering.The Bridge show performance I attended, unplugged 1998:Live in 2014:Trey & Page on the deck: