|But not these guys....|
For me, Liz Phair started more as concept than performer: a raunchy, female indie (still pop, but still indie) – artist. I came to understand her as a type before I knew her as a musician…and I’d say that’s on me, except I had only nice things to say about this Liz Phair. And then “Supernova” hit the airwaves (my mind still flashes to rowers when I hear that song), and I continued to think, “yeah, Liz Phair’s all right.” And “you fuck like a volcano” confirmed the raunchy thing.
Next, I heard (the fucking brilliant*) “Stratford-on-Guy” during all those looped listens of The Greatest Music Compilation of All Time. I can still play that song twice in a row to this day (*I just can’t explain why I find it brilliant).
And then about, oh, 10 years later, maybe 12, I spotted a couple Liz Phair albums on a hunting expedition – Exile in Guyville and Funstyle (bookended the career – yes!) - and I picked those up and, holy shit, infatuation, a full month’s worth of listens, etc. I fell that fast, that hard; I’d wake up in the morning, wondering what Liz was up to, what she had to say, that kind of thing. It only hits me now why that might be: my favorite song from each of those albums does something very different. Just a glance at the song’s titles (“The Divorce Song” (that link sucks, but I just found the original Girlysound recording - NEAT-o! (reference, what's Girlysound?); still like the official version) and “Beat Is Up”) should signal to the discerning listener that she should expect two very different songs.
And yet they’re not such different songs, at least thematically. The musical inspiration, sound, instrumentation couldn’t be more different – especially given that she wrote them both – but Liz Phair sounds comfortable with both approaches. When she’s being, writing and singing as herself, she comes off as authentic, and that makes the clear reaches on Funstyle come off. She has an ear for expression, for matching tone and theme; she’s neither perfect, nor universal, but she has a strong personality/persona/personal narrative that tells a good and interesting story, and I think a lot of people related to it. I know I can spend days on her songs (if more her lyrics than her music, though I’m thinking more about the latter after this week). That time she wasn’t herself, though…man, oh, holy shit. Dude, like, it wasn’t good…