too much typing—since 2003



Confession time: I actually like much of Liz Phair. Now that it's been out several months, and the furor over Phair's image makeover has died down, all that's left is the music. Admittedly, my version of the album begins with the "online-only" EP, including the iTunes-exclusive track, and is resequenced to put most of the Matrix-produced material near the end, frontloading the stronger tracks - but the results only foreground that some of these are indeed strong songs, that Phair's talent (and, uh, taste, if that's the right word for someone whose most infamous song features the line "I'll fuck you till your dick is blue") hasn't completely deserted her.

I still think she's trying to hard to be disposable - yet the results come across more like Aimee Mann trying to get more play on World Cafe than Britney Spears. And really, that isn't such a bad thing. As for lyrics...okay, they're a bit dumbed down generally, "H.W.C." is still pretty stupid, and some lines that would have read ironically in a Brad Wood world come across poorly on the album's brightly spotlit stage. But unlike some folks, the underwear thing in "Favorite" seems kinda charming to me - and no, that's not because I'm some sort of Liz Phair underwear fetishist. (If you are, though, the last line of this piece should give you hope...)

My hope is that Phair realizes that, yes, her music can work in a sonically upgraded world, but that the musical mainstream right now is so incredibly narrow and shallow right now as to admit only the most insubstantial talents, and that no matter how hard she tries, she can't be un-Liz enough to do it. And so, if she isn't satisfied with a smaller, indie-rock audience (if that audience hasn't completely left her), working with someone like Michael Penn makes more sense than a completely mainstream production team like The Matrix.

Still, the album's an in-spite-of victory for me, rather than something I can wholeheartedly endorse. But given the way I was fulminating against it months back (not here), mostly based on its marketing and my evaluation of its decisions, it's heartening to see that marketing and production can't completely overcome talent, at least not unless that talent wants to be overcome. And I'll take Phair at her word that this was really what she wanted to do, not something she was forced into doing.

The next album will be telling...

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