I’m only going to talk about 1993-1999-era Liz Phair. I don’t really dig her after she sold out (though I must say “Why Can’t I” is still a dope pop song).
Twenty-three years ago (yes, that’s 1993 for the mathematically-challenged…. and yes, 23 years. That’s over two decades!)………. I bought Liz Phair’s Exile In Guyville CD (probably from the mail-order CD company BMG) after reading a glowing review about it in Rolling Stone (remember when people used to take a chance on music, before being able to hear it?) It was the third CD I ever bought. It took me two weeks to get together the $15 for it, because I was poor as shit and my parents were like “you need $15 for WHAT? a CD? No.”
Liz Phair was the original DIY punk girl. Every song on Exile In Guyville is written entirely by her, and produced (with additional instrumentation) by Brad Wood, who also recorded Ben Lee’s brilliant solo debut Grandpaw Would, and Ben Lee’s second record (my favorite of his), Something To Remember Me By.
I am reminded of Liz Phair tonight, as I saw a facebook post by a former guitar student of mine, who I started teaching in 2008 (she’s now 18). She was absolutely raving about Liz’s music, and specifically Exile In Guyville. She said she wished she’d gotten into Liz Phair’s music sooner. I told her she got into it at the perfect age (I was 17 when I bought Exile and spun it to fucking death).
Liz hasn’t ever, and will never, top the brilliance of her debut record. The second album Whip-Smart is alright, but the lead single from the album “Supernova” is absolute shit. It’s her worst song, in my opinion. But the actual song “Whip-Smart” is super-good.
Liz’s 3rd record, the initially-rejected (by the major label who she went to) Whitechocolatespaceegg, is super good, and is reminiscent at times, of Exile. I have the initially-rejected version in my collection, and the commercial release that die-hard Liz fans know (her 3rd album was mostly ignored).
Fast-forward a few years, and Liz sold out, with “Why Can’t I?”. It’s a lovely little pop song, but co-written by a professional team (who also wrote Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated”– yes, I love that song), so it loses its credibility, and fast. I haven’t touched any of Liz’s music beyond that song, after one listen… as I don’t think any of it is worth listening to, more than once. It’s just over-produced pop garbage. But, maybe I’ll give it a chance down the road.
But man.. that first record? WHOA.
Enjoy it… and fuck the trendy bullshit you probably hear all the time. A lot of it is entirely forgettable. But this record certainly isn’t. This record is everything RIGHT about the 90s, and female-fronted (and female-written) alternative rock/indie. PERFECTION. Don’t you ever forget it!
side note about the very first CDs I ever bought (all of which, I still own): The first, and second CDs I ever bought were The Smiths’ self-titled album, and Dinosaur Jr’s Bug. Other CDs I bought after Exile In Guyville include Juliana Hatfield’s Become What You Are, Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream, and Louder Than Bombs by the Smiths.