Stuck On Repeat: Cracking Liz Phair’s “Whitechocolatespaceegg”

Feb 9th, 2007 // 10 Comments

wcse.jpgWe seem to remember Liz Phair’s third album, whitechocolatespacegg, getting middling reviews when it was released, but all of the old writeups we’re finding online have been positive–either critics decided to revise their impressions after suffering through “Rock Me” a few times, or our youth made us get a little too sensitive about our affections for an album that was solidly jammed in our CD player for approximately 28 months. Either way, we’ve returned to it recently, and with our newfound maturity (wait, why are you laughing?) comes an appreciation for these three tracks in particular:

Liz Phair – Big Tall Man [MP3, link expired]
Liz Phair – Ride [MP3, link expired]
Liz Phair – What Makes You Happy [MP3, link expired]

idolator

  1. MickFNS

    Polyesther Bride is cool. But what’s up with the multiple posts?

  2. SilentSid

    How could you leave out “Polyester Bride”? That was always my favorite song from this album.

  3. Chris Molanphy

    It really is pretty underrated. I might even argue that it’s aged better than Whip-Smart (though the album title hasn’t).

    You guys keep hitting on records I reviewed at CMJ back in the day! Here’s my review, which ran in the summer of ’98 (August issue, I believe, of New Music Monthly):

    LIZ PHAIR
    whitechocolatespaceegg
    Matador/Capitol

    Wedding ring on her finger, newborn at her bosom, Lilith concerts in her datebook, Liz Phair ’98 appears dulled, neutered, edge-free — a worrisome prospect, if you agree that her first records still blow away the ’90s women who’ve sold truckloads in her wake. The truth is, Phair has lost her edge, but not her voice, and thank god, because she would have lost her edge even if she’d kept singing of blow-job queens and fucking and running. The long-promised whitechocolatespaceegg comes freighted with expectations both artistic — Phair agonized over the songs for three years — and commercial, as she’s been paired with R.E.M. producer Scott Litt and big-rock mixer Tom Lord-Alge. For all that labor, spaceegg still comes out as unmistakably Phair’s, with all of her hallmarks: sly wit, unadorned guitar, fearless singing, and most crucial, empathy — not just for women but for a generation needing to be cool and unguarded at once. Closer to 1994′s songwriterly Whip-Smart than to her unrepeatable jaw-dropper Exile in Guyville, spaceegg gets better on each listen, with some of the best songs (“Polyester Bride,” “What Makes You Happy”) produced by Phair and old friend Brad Wood. Those hook-fests join instantly familiar tunes like “Girls’ Room” and “Johnny Feelgood.” “Home is very ordinary,” Phair sings on “Perfect World,” confirming she’s not yet domesticated. “I know I was born to lead a double life…I want to be cool, tall, vulnerable and luscious.” Don’t we all. –CM

    Recommended If You Like: Beth Orton, Elliott Smith, PJ Harvey.

  4. The Playlist

    Guys (Idolator), stop it. It’s not that good. yes, there’s a few good tracks, but you gotta stop re-evaluating mediocre records and trying to call them anything but.

  5. Maura Johnston

    Ahem. (NB: I was 24 when I wrote this.)

  6. Chris Molanphy

    Wow, Maura…um – good review. No, seriously. Um…

    [smiles sheepishly]

    Anybody wanna try an experiment? Put me and Maura in separate rooms, hand us three albums, give us three hours, and see how close our reviews come to each other?

  7. FionaScrapple

    Living Color giveth, Liz Phair taketh.

    Cred, that is.

  8. Ebbywebby

    For me, Whip-Smart was the clunker…I was relieved that whitechocolatespaceegg seemed like somewhat of a return to form. Never really understood the backlash surrounding this album, beyond it (inevitably) being less raw and tormented than Guyville.

  9. Dashiell Bennett

    Whitechocolatespaceegg is her best album. The end.

  10. Maulleigh

    I love this album and don’t feel like it’s the beginning of her downward slide. There are some damn catchy tunes. She’s still being honest and she’s still being real.

    But I do understand that something happened to the quality. I had all my phair songs together on my ipod and the difference between her new stuff and old stuff is JARRING!!!

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