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Liz Phair

1 rating: 5.0
An album by Liz Phair

Eponymous albums are usually either debuts or the work of musicians trying to introduce themselves to a new audience. CountLiz Phairamong the latter. It’s Phair's fourth studio album, but her first since 1998, and it's a long way from the arty, … see full wiki

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1 review about Liz Phair

The Phair Guide to Female Sexuality

  • Sep 12, 2003
Rating:
+5
Liz Phair is now a thirty-something (more something than thirty, though), freshly divorced young woman who has never hidden the fact that she is not your virginal mother (or sister, girlfriend, or wife). Not only doesn't she hesitate to sing about sex in clear everyday language, by Gor, she even has the tenacity to claim she even likes it. And if she decides to hook up with young men in their twenties whose record collections are non-existent and are thus not thrown-off by her indie rock queen baggage--well, you go girl! Except maybe we don't need to hear all the details. But that wouldn't be Liz, would it? To encourage her to self-censor her life from her music would be surely to destroy everything that make Liz Phair interesting to listen to.

It's not just the afore-implied song ("Rock Me," which tries, and fails, to play on the rock cliche where rock in this sense equals sex and thus becomes different if sung by a woman) and the description of her different seasons romance (down to the awkwardly geeky picture of Phair playing Xbox on the floor of her young lover's apartment) that is troublesome. It's the perceived shift in the Liz Phair persona that we had all created in our minds based on those other three albums. That Liz Phair was a complicated enigma who was both direct and ambiguous, whose songs might be describing her past experience or just something she observed. The new, older, eponymous Liz Phair has the subtlety of a foil-wrapped condom passed across the table during the dessert course, and about the same intent. In "Favorite" and "H.W.C.", Phair one-ups Kinsey with a couple of confessionals that sound more like a Penthouse letter than an independent feminist singer-songwriter. "Favorite" compares her lover to her favorite panties while "H.W.C." is a paeon to the skin care properties--among other things--of certain precious bodily fluids (the song itself doesn't hide behind the initializations of its, likely label imposed, title).

Except (there's that word again!), if we ignore those more glaring examples of Phair's most recent bedroom excursions, the others songs aren't nearly as awkward lyrically. They, instead, sometimes suffer from an overproduction that smoothes out Phair's weak vocal delivery at the cost of losing the intimacy that accompanied the occasional off-key syllable. I won't go so far as others in criticizing the overtracking of instruments, as even Exile in Guyville, for all its seeming four-track idyllic simplicity, had a couple of songs that were more experimental than acoustic, and Phair has shown in the two albums between an interest in creating a fuller sound behind her.

The highlights for me are the fatalistic but driving "Love/Hate" and the stripped bare "Little Digger," the closest Phair has come to channeling her former self. I enjoy a number of the other songs in the same way that I don't switch off the radio when a Matchbox 20 song begins--those songs are today's pure pop and while they likely won't weather well, they sound perfectly fine now: "It's Sweet," "Why Can't I," "Take a Look," and "Friend of Mine."

Really, the point of Liz Phair may be that she actively resists typecasting, even while seemingly embracing the idea of becoming an older Britney. as she sings in "Extraordinary," she's an "average everyday sane psycho supergoddess." Walt Whitman said, "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes." So must Liz Phair.

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Liz Phair
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Label: Capitol
Artist: Liz Phair
Release Date: June 24, 2003

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