Liz Phair Reissue Is Leaving Me In Exile In Think-Pieceville

Jun 20th, 2008 // 11 Comments

exilllle.jpgA note to Guardian music blogger Priya Elan, who spends a bunch of paragraphs and a bunch of links concluding that Liz Phair’s Exile In Guyville has been “forgotten”: Darling, “forgotten” albums don’t get reissued with lots of attendant press, celebratory concerts, etc., etc. “Forgotten” albums are the ones that you find crammed into the 99-cent bin at the Princeton Record Exchange because they’ve been left to die.

I mean, I loved Guyville and think Phair’s other two pre-Matrix albums are pretty underrated because of her debut’s outsized stature, and I’m sure glad that talk of the album is at least serving as something of a Katy Perry corrective as far as “women in music” are concerned. But every time I read a “think piece” pegged to Phair these days I want to claw my eyes out at the simplistic theorizing within, none of which has even attempted to grapple with the fact that 1993, for better or for worse, is not 2008, and that simply saying “women are awesome, yay!” or “sexism is bad, boo!” doesn’t really even scratch the surface of the surface of the problems with music and gender in the current era, which we’ve gone into in some detail before.

The Phair sex war (repeated) [Guardian]

  1. loudersoft

    Well said. If you’re a writer driving for a point with a think piece on this record and you head for the “why is this forgotten” zone or attempt to spin it into “something more sinister”, you’ve alienated readers of your blog and fans alike.

    This record is so not forgotten. Maybe you forgot it, but people who actually like music (and have been following it a while) have never forgotten. It wasn’t like she made three shitty records and we tossed her out.

    Now, I agree with Maura: her two following albums have mysteriously been forgotten or dismissed, and they each contained songs that moved her from critical darling into commercial success (you know…”Human Supernova”? ‘Memba that?).

    Not liking something because it’s not “indie” enough is so 1994 and pathetic — we like it no matter how popular it is because we like it. Conceptualizing that an album of this magnitude is forgotten is an excellent way of demonstrating one’s inability to do their homework.

  2. tankboy

    In the DVD Albini makes it clear how idiotic he finds most critics/journalists, and a lot of this overly simplified reflection about the album only serves to support his opinion.

  3. Jfrankparnell

    Wait a minute – I used to see Exit in Guyville in the 99 cent bin at Princeton Record Exchange all the time (viva la Blank Stare of Hate!). It soooo belonged there, right next to copies of Siamese Dream and crap like Spacehog and Veruca Salt.

  4. Jfrankparnell

    Albini hated the Replacements.

    Case closed.

  5. loudersoft

    @Jfrankparnell: in re “hated”, does he like them now? probably not

  6. Captain Wrong

    @Jfrankparnell: Heh. I was thinking the same thing, except substitute all my local places for Princeton. Ditto for the recent, super deluxe reissue of It’s a Shame About Ray.

  7. FluxEqualsRad

    here is a more tired trope that I want to know the source of:

    Who ever said that Exile in Guyville is a song-by-song reaction to Exile On Main Street? Other than having the same number of songs it very clearly isn’t. Does anyone who repeats it in their reviews listen to the albums back to back or song by song?

    Idolator investigate this misinformation and get to the source!

  8. HomefrontRadio

    If ‘Guyville’ has been forgotten, it’s because Phair made herself irrelevant with everything that came after, not helped by the slow release pace of her material. Five years is a long time in pop music for your initial excitement to wane and your allegiance to switch to someone else, and that gives you more than enough time to truly dissect and album and realise there’s nothing there.

    ‘Guyville’ is vastly overrated:

    - Her singing voice struggles with every note.

    - The melodies are mainly based on steps of second and third intervals and sound more like nursery rhymes.

    - The musicianship is amateur at best, and has a ‘nobody cares enough to try very hard’ quality to the performance.

    - Basic triad chord harmonics played with the easiest beginner chord fingering on the guitar with the bass playing the root note of each chord.

    - Supposed shock value lyrics, like the Clovers never sung ‘Don’t Fuck Around With Love’ in the ’50s; the Rolling stones never sung ‘Star Fucker Star Fucker’ in the 70′s; or Elton Motello never sung the hook line “He gives me head!” in the 80′s; or REM hadn’t sung ‘Fuck Me Kitten’ a year before in an album without a Parental Advisory Sticker.

    So you have someone who can’t sing, can’t play, has the most basic knowledge of music theory and low production values. (I could theoretically probably reproduce ‘Guyville’ with my feeble voice, very basic guitar skills, and some recording software on my computer).

    Why pay $30 for a CD of that when there’s 1000′s of Myspace bands giving it away for free, and your competiting in a marketplace where you others can offer more skill and talent for your money? She’s simply a bad consumer choice.

    After ‘Guyville’ comes two patchy follow-up albums with as much mediocre filler as decent songs, then two albums that amount to feebly-performed, poorly-sung Sheryl Crowe albums that proved we were dealing with not even a minor talent.

  9. BenRad

    @HomefrontRadio: Your astute analysis could be applied to many other records that you probably enjoy, but then I’m not inside your head. The plain fact of the matter is that I enjoyed the record when I first heard it years ago and I still love it today. In fact, I love it for all the reasons you’ve listed. Guess I’m a bad consumer.

  10. Bob Loblaw

    @HomefrontRadio: Shaky voices convey
    vulnerability. Simple chord progressions are just an easy entry point
    to the material. Getting hung up on musicianship can be a dangerous
    (and frankly, boring) distraction. A glossy Exile would be just as
    self-negating as a sloppy set from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

    I hear Leona Lewis just put out an astoundingly competent disc that may be of interest to you.

  11. Anonymous

    you may be right about her talent, but i’ve rubbed one out thinking about Liz Phair more often than any other female recording artist. that should be worth something…

    [preview.tinyurl.com]

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