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Monday, June 23, 2003
So in case you haven't noticed, reviews of the new Liz Phair album have been awful. I've even had a few friends, who listened to the album, tell me as much, and certainly it's confusing as to why a pretty respected indie artist would chase teen-pop at this particular moment in time. I'll admit I consequently wrote it off, not that I was ever that much of a Liz Phair fan.

But Fluxblog today posts a song from the album, Rock Me, and fuck, it's just great--a very Phair-ish bit about fucking younger men whose "record collection don't exist," but it sounds like, well, an Avril Lavigne song production-wise, which is no surprise, since it's one of the songs on Liz's album written / produced by The Matrix. It's a lot rougher than Avril's stuff, but all the weird little digital starts-and-stops, the big chorus dropins, the telephone voices, etc., are there.

And I love it! It's weird to read interviews that say that the Matrix's style "is not exactly in the business of making a singer sound more like herself," since this song totally sound like what I would expect if someone told me to look for Exile in Guyville with teen-pop production. I don't know why the lyrics are being slagged off--maybe something about the sequencing of the full album makes critics numb to the charms by this point--but I think they're excellent and fully in character. Of course, when the worst insult you can find for an album is "banality wins the day," you know I'm gonna love it (banality being, of course, at the heart of rock 'n' roll), especially when there's a song whose initials stand for "Hot White Cum" and posits ejaculate as a fountain of youth. Wahoo! OK, it's no "Divorce Song," but let's be honest in saying that this is an unfairly high standard to live up to. Liz seems to be successfully fucking with everyone, and I like it. Good for her. And beyond that, the song just sounds great to these ears.

This raises an interesting question for me, though: maybe more of our indie icons with pop leanings should grab some major-label dollars and make a fucking radio-friendly pop album with the Neptunes or the Matrix or someone like that. I mean, isn't that what we love about Beck's party albums? They're impeccably produced and very well-written, teaming as they do a great songwriter with great pop producers. The only thing separating Midnite Vultures and Liz Phair in my mind is that the songwriting is better on the former (by all accounts) and the latter is trying to actively participate in popular culture. I know not everyone agrees with me about stuff like Avril or Britney being great production-wise, but I think it would be awesome if you took that kind of style and gave it the kind of great lyrics and hooks that some of our underground luminaries can crank out. Think of, say, one of these folks doing that: Isaac Brock, Dan Bejar, Cat Power...the list goes on.

Anyway, the point is that I like the song, and that an album with 3 great songs on it and a bunch of crap is a firm convention of the teen-pop genre that Phair is trying to participate in.