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Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Rob of Quo Vadimus points us (via comment) to Pitchfork's Liz Phair review, about which I'd like to make a few points:
- "The saddest possible conclusion to what began as one of the most promising careers of the 1990s..."
Why does everyone think this is the end of her career? Do they think she's going to stop making music? Does it really stand to reason that no indie label would have her if, worst-case scenario, sales for this one were horrible and she got dropped? (And, since she is tied to a major-label contract, maybe this is a way of getting out of it? Hmmm...) I think there will be more Liz Phair after this, whether or not it sells well, and I suspect someone's going to keep listening.
- "The result: one of the worst records ever made!" / "0.0"
Well, of course, she's in good company with this 0.0: the only other album I can remember with this rating is Sonic Youth's NYC Ghosts and Flowers, for which the rating was similarly ridiculous: surely the beautiful title track deserves a few points, right? As for "worst records ever made," is "Liz Phair" really down there with, say, Michael Bolton albums and collections of dogs barking Xmas carols? (Or Bonnie Tyler?) Of course not; context is king here, as it always is for Pitchfork, and had this been made by someone else it wouldn't have gone below the 5.0 mark, especially with a song as amazing as "Rock Me" on it. Speaking of which:
- "Phair sings exuberantly about the benefits of an affair with a younger guy including-- I shit you not-- "[playing] X-Box on [his] floor." In between choruses of "Baby baby baby if it's alright/ Want you to rock me all night," Phair declares, "I'm starting to think that young guys rule!" without a trace of self-doubt or reflection."
As for the latter: as I've noted before, it seems like the indie crits didn't actually listen to this song, as the "young guys rule" line is immediately preceded by "You think I'm a genius, think I'm cool." So there's your self-doubt, if you want it: Liz is feeling like a lame single mom, and she thinks it's sweet that this guy naively thinks she's cool, since of course she isn't, nor is she a genius. The main complaint here seems to be that she's not bitter and angsty, which seems, how to put it, a bit unfair. ("Why aren't you torrrrrtured like Cat Power???") And the chorus--man, the chorus! As I say in the comments below, the great thing about this chorus is how it totally nails the pop-song thing I look for, i.e. a kind of anonymous thing that draws you into the song, and then you notice the verse lyrics, and then you're glad you got drawn in. It's a hook, and it's very well done. Speaking of pop:
- "In recent interviews, Phair has been upfront about her hopes of mainstream success, and claims full awareness that Liz Phair is likely to alienate many of her original fans."
Well, good for her! This makes me want to shake the woman's hand (although I would be disappointed, albeit impressed, if this just turned out to be a ploy to get out of her major-label deal). I admire an artist who's totally upfront about this, especially one who came from the conservative, moralistic indie community. And good for her for not pussying out; once she chooses this path, she goes at it full fuckin' force, playing the conventions of the still-ongoing teen-pop genre like she was a garage-rocker (or neo-no-waver, or electroclasher) referencing the touchpoints of some retro sound, while still working in those great Lizzy lyrics we all swear by.
So good for her. If this alienates her "true" fans, well, fuck it, she won my ass over.
UPDATE: Rob via comments points us to the Matador thread about the new Liz album.