I’ve always enjoyed the music of Liz Phair. Like most people I was instantly enamored of her debut 1993 release Exile in Guyville. If you don’t own a copy you should. It’s got a very high percentage of great music for a CD with 18 songs on it. Unfortunately for Liz, it still stands as her best record. And it’s not close. I bought the next three CDs of her catalogue waiting for something in that neighborhood, but it just never came. I enjoyed 1994′s Whip-Smart and 1998′s Whitechocolatespaceegg, but Liz just seemed to move towards a more poppier girly sounding style of music. I even liked ”Extraordinary” from 2003′s self titled Liz Phair, but I think, if memory serves, I had to hear that one on a TV commercial before I actually heard it on the radio. My local Alternative Rock station apparently made the decision her music was a too commercial sounding and stop playing her. I’m sure other stations took up the slack, but I kind of missed hearing her. She’s released six records in total, but I only own four. I’ll definitely go back and find 2005′s Somebody’s Miracle in the cutout bin one of these days, but I kind of lost my Liz Phair mojo sometime last decade. She’s only seven years younger than I am, but it feels like I’ve got 15-20 years on her for some reason. Maybe it’s 200 sex kitten photos you can all find on the world wide web with a couple of clicks of the mouse. Some of her photos are hot, I think we can all agree on that, but some of them have the feel of trying too hard to me for some reason. I don’t hold any of that against her though, in fact I kind of wish more women were like her. She’s been about attitude and I always liked that about her.
Elizabeth Clark Phair was born on April 17, 1967 in New Haven, CT. She spent the lion’s share of her childhood in a town called Winnetka, IL. According to our friends at Wikipedia she was a fairly normal high school student participating instudent government, helping to put together the yearbook and running Cross Country. Pretty cool so far. After attending Oberlin College in Ohio and majoring in Art History, Phair met guitar player Chris Brokaw from the Boston Alternative Rock band Come. The pair moved to San Francisco for a time, but Phair moved back to Chicago after struggling to become an artist there. Back in the Chicago area she made friends with local bands and became a part of the local Indie Rock Scene. Phair allegedly hung around with Chicago areas band that were hitting it big like Material Issue and Urge Overkill. She began to record songs on homemade tapesand asking around to find out who might be able to release her music. She located Brad Wood of Feel Good All Over records, a local Indie label. It is said that Wood pointed Phair towards Gerard Cosley, co-founder of Matador Records. After sending him her tapes Cosley agreed to record her and the rest is history. Exile in Guyville was co-produced by both Phair and Brad Wood and ignited a bit of controversy. There were overtly sexual lyrics and one song, exquisitely named “Fuck and Run” was about as down and dirty as it gets. Naturally she had her share of detractors as a result. There can be no question she used her sex appeal, or maybe more accurately the appeal of sex, to help sell Exile, but the fact of the matter remains, the record was rock solid.
It seemed like eons between Exile, which was getting some mileage out of a rumor that it was allegedly a song for song rebuttal of The Rolling Stones’ Classic Exile On Main Street, but that talk died down over the years. I loved both records, but I didn’t quite see or hear what people were talking about. Whip-Smart almost came out too fast as it didn’t seem as though enough people had really digested Exile, but while it had a couple of radio friendly tracks beginning with “Supernova,” it was ultimately perceived as a disappointment. Liz Phair, however, had made The Cover of The Rolling Stone as the old Dr Hook song goes. She appeared on Letterman, Leno, MTV’s 120 Minutes and Good Morning America. Pretty heady stuff for a 27 or 28 year old. 1995 she got married and had a child and things changed a bit for Liz as far as her music I think it’s fair to say. By the time 1998′s Whitechocolatespaceegg was released Phair had toned it down. The single from that CD, “Polyester Bride,” was actually quite listenable from my point of view, but I don’t think too many people actually heard it. Sales disappointed again. Phair had written a pretty cool song about Divorce ironically called “Divorce Song” on Exile in Guyville, but she herself, if I have my facts straight (and it wouldn’t be the first time I didn’t), didn’t actually become involved in a divorce until 2001. Breakups are like divorces without all the expensive paperwork so I’m sure it doesn’t matter, but I was curious.
I think Liz Phair too an inordinate amount of criticism over the years, but she still managed to sell over three million records. She released a record called Funstyle in 2010, but I have yet to hear a note. I’ll eventually get around to it, but I don’t really have a problem with her joining the Lillith Fair set so much. It’s not for me, but whatever makes her happy is fine by me. I just saw on Wikipedia that she is good friends with Robin Tunney, who co-stars with Simon Baker on the CBS TV show The Mentalist. That’s cool. I’m a Robin Tunney fan too. I think Liz is reviewing books for a living these days in between releases. I’m sure she gets a little tired of hearing sell out and all the other stuff that gets thrown at her. I don’t understand all the negativity, but she really did wallop a home run with that first release and people wanted more from her I guess. Hopefully she lets that stuff roll off of her back these days. I think she performed awhile back, but don’t quote me. I wasn’t there I’m sorry to say. Next time Liz. Happy Birthday From The Giant Panther.
Buy or Download Exile in Guyville From Amazon Here.