Friday, August 22, 2008

Liz Phair - Exile in Guyville

Liz Phair - Exile in Guyville
by Lisa Oliver

Blowjob, blowjob, blowjob. Okay, that’s out of the way.

No, wait – fuck, fuck, fuck.

Now we can discuss Liz Phair.

I’ve never been a Liz Phair fan. She’s one of those artists I like in theory (Pavement anyone?) but not in practice. I remember when Exile in Guyville came out and was touted as her reply to Exile on Main Street, which just sounds dumb. Then I actually heard the album, and it did indeed sound dumb – it’s the confused musing of a girl who doesn’t understand her vocal range and likes to get her tits out. However, I’m no stranger myself to being a confused girl who doesn’t understand her vocal range and likes to get her tits out. So occasionally I’d cut her some sisterhood slack and revisit. Its low-fi, vocal warbling just began to sound more and more dated as time went on. Plus, her pandering, whining, little-girl bullshit began to get on my tits. Or maybe it just hit too close to the tits for me. I double-dog dare anyone to find a strong-willed, self-confident woman who doesn’t silently long for a boyfriend to give her the stupid old shit like sodas and letters. I guess Liz (like the rest of us) had to learn the literal hard way that just because a boy fucks you, that doesn’t mean he really likes you. Still, you do have to admire someone who spreads one’s diary pages open as easily as spreading one’s legs open for the entire world to see.

I much prefer the Liz Phair of “Never Said,” a subtle yet wicked Liz Phair. She’s not quite the wordsmith she thinks she is but still…when she purrs that she’s clean as a whistle…that is the sound of thighs getting wet. But then she counters all the good clever stuff with her steadfast dedication to being photographed with her cupid’s bow lips parted, head tilted back, doing her best Alicia Silverstone impression pose. Got it Liz – you dig giving head. Now, can you either get your head down there or just move on please?

I’ll follow my own request and just get my head down into her eponymous 2003 affair – which paradoxically strikes me as a grown-up answer to the adolescent meditation of Exile. She should have called it Homecoming in Womantown.

Instead of begging to be some dude’s blowjob queen, she’s playing with his Xbox. She’s no longer just “6’1,” she’s “Extraordinary.” She doesn’t need some douche for a boyfriend; she’s using his jizz as her personal age-retardant. I don’t know who Liz is blowing, but I’ve never encountered “hot” cum. Sounds like a choking hazard.

Yes, some of the music is Matrix-rocker-confections, and her vocals are pro-tooled and pitch-perfected to airbrushed-centerfold perfection, but I don’t care. It sounds happy, full of life and spunk (all kinds of spunk) on “It’s Sweet” and “Why Can’t I?” She’s shed her lo-fi hair shirt, crystallizing into the true goddess she was destined to be. Its amazing how growing up can make someone so content with who they are. If selling out makes her this at ease, she should have done it years ago.

Is her answer to the male gaze the female just-open-enough-mouthed stare? No, I don’t think she is clever enough to be fully cognizant of and able to toy with academic feminism. However, her answer to herself is making the music she wants to make and men, women, and the music press can all go to hell. I raise both my glass and my rack to her.

Lisa Oliver is a Columbia-educated writer whose work has appeared in The Guardian, Stylus, The Fly UK, Musicweek UK, Yahoo! Music, NME, Publishers Weekly, Domino and People.



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