Thursday, November 4, 2010

#94 Liz Phair-Exile In Guyville


Artist: Liz Phair
Album: Exile In Guyville
Label: Matador
Year: 1993

Liz Phair's debut is an album that just needs to be enjoyed on its own. Don't worry about the back-story, about how it's a song-by-song reaction to Exile on Main Street cus it doesn't make any sense or add to the album at all. Don't worry about how Liz is some riot grrl making strides for women's lib in punk rock, because she doesn't hold a candle to the progress Sleater-Kinney or Bikini Kill made. Exile In Guyville is still one of the best records of the 1990s, and it's just because of awesome songwriting and great sequencing.
The diversity of songs on the album is still stunning, and the way Liz shifts between moods and styles with equal quality remains a strong point. There are the "hits" like "6'1", "Fuck and Run", and "Divorce Song" as well as dark piano songs like "Shatter" and "Canary." On top of that, folk-ier, stripped down songs as well as some really dark, almost tripped out psychedelic (in their own way) shit really build an incredible record.
The earnestness and songwriting are also remarkable. Listen to how the story unfolds in "Divorce Song": "And when I asked/for a second room/it was late at night, and we'd been driving since noon. But if I had known/how that would sound to you/I would've taken it back/for the rest of my life/just to prove I was right." Those little, mundane, and insignificant events in a relationship always end up meaning more than we realize, and Liz's storytelling reveals that. And it gets general and universal as well, as she later sings, "You put in my hand a loaded gun and then told me not to fire it. When you did the things you said were up to me and then accused me of trying to fuck it up." Really, we've all been there.
With sub-par follow-up records and awful records the last few years, Liz Phair's legend has diminished. While many of her late-80s/early-90s indie rock peers are cashing in on a resurgence of fame, her Exile shows were disasters by most accounts, and the DVD on the CD reissue is...embarrassing and boring to say the least. But none of it takes away from the quality of the 18 songs that make up Exile in Guyville.

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