Sunday, 13 April 2008



The debut studio album from Liz Phair is quite the bold and breathy effort.  With a title that makes nods to both the Rolling Stones (Exile) and Urge Overkill (Guyville) it is a work relating to and reporting the sense of isolation felt by a lady in small-town America.  Her description was of expressing a state of mind and a place where “men are men and women are learning”.  Indeed Phair was even heard as saying that this eighteen song monster was a song-by-song reply to Exile On Main Street.

Liz Phair became part of the Chicago indie scene although the accelerated critical and commercial success of this record storming out the blocks prompted something of a negative response from more seasoned characters.  The alternative scene was never comfortable with success.

Exile In Guyville has quite the lo-fi sound.  Stripped down and impressive these songs were laying the tracks for artists such as Cat Power and assisting/enabling female front ladies to go it alone.  Indeed she and Chan Marshall share a sense of stage fright and enduring awkwardness.

The cover is flash, perhaps a bit too flash for an indie record.  In her gesture it feels overtly sexual in a manner that say Juliana Hatfield would never dare.  And the colour scheme of black and white with purple does feel very much of the time in a mainstream manner.  In other words this artwork is something Madonna could have used.

Exile In Guyville bore two singles in the form of “Never Said” and “Stratford-On-Guy”.  The former is the embodiment of a simple response to common accusation while the latter to this day remains one of her best known songs with its offering of urgency, big chorus and air stewardess music video.

Elsewhere in the mix is the fun “Fuck And Run” with a chorus that accidentally sounds like “fuck Enron” in addition to the haunting and staid “Shatter” which draws the listener in then draws them out.  And finally of note is the near stomp of “Johnny Sunshine” which takes an oddly angelic direction disrupting the show.

With a subtle rumble there are clean and restrained nods to Riot Grrrl sensibilities without actually throwing such emotions over the cliff.  There are elements that do remind of PJ Harvey and Courtney Love but it is very soft with that.  More so her vocal delivery reminds/sounds much like Mary Timony of Helium.  You suspect in despatch there was a demographic consciously being purposely include and not alienated in approach.

Ultimately its all very accomplished and solidly put together manning a number of subjects not necessarily or usually addressed, Liz was not shy in saying shocking things.  However it is all a bit passive and laidback in execution when really what wanted was more bite.  It is just too much Chrissy and not enough Courtney.

Thesaurus moment: dispassionate.

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