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June 22, 2003

A tad Un-Phair

Liz Phair releases a new album on Tuesday. She's going for pop stardom, given the new sexpot image she's sporting and the hook-laden songs on her record. The critical response so far ranges from average to downright harsh. A sampling:

Rolling Stone puts the nicest spin on the album, giving it 3 stars: "Phair is a fine lyricist, and although she's lost some musical identity, she's gained potential Top Forty access."

NY Times: "Liz Phair has suggested that her new album is a bid for center stage. Instead, she has committed an embarrassing form of career suicide." ("Liz Phair's Exile in Avril-ville" - Meghan O'Rourke, NYT, Arts & Leisure, 6/22/03)

A reviewer at AllMusic isn't so keen either: "Throughout the album, these sparkly banalities come fast and furious, sometimes interrupted by something a little deeper, sometimes sounding catchy enough to sound pleasant in passing if you overlook both the lyrics and the fact that they're written by Phair, who used to be one of the sharpest writers in rock."

"Career suicide?" Ouch. Working with the Matrix doesn't mean she's punk posette Avril Lavigne. That said, this isn't a transcendental breakthrough album. There are catchy guitar-driven pop, radio-friendly hooks that would make this a good summer roadtrip album - so far I'm liking "Extraordinary" and "Why Can't I?" Phair continues her propensity for throwing the f-word around, and there are some awkward tracks, like the one comparing a relationship to her favorite underwear ("Favorite") and the cheerily raunchy "H.W.C." But I guess if you loved her first recording, Exile in Guyville, this is probably not for you.

UPDATE: Additional critical surveys are noted in ms.musings, a blog for Ms. magazine.

Yours, &c., LC | 08:38 PM | Music | Comments (1)


I read your comments after reviewing this album myself for a small city's alt-weekly, and I want to throw out a few thoughts. *Perhaps* Phair opted for the kittenish pop this go-round as a way to thumb her nose at the "maturing singer/songwriter" image that most would assume she'd take with a marriage, son, and divorce under her belt. As for the sex...well, it's Liz Phair...there's always been sex--it's just cloaked in a bubblegum wrapper this time. I'd imagine that it's hard to be raw and "indie" when today's conception of "indie"=Avril. I, personally, liked this album. I'm not sure if it was as flooring as I'd hoped it would be after waiting 5 years, but I trust our angel-faced, sharp-tongued warrior. I just hope this isn't the last we hear of her...

Posted by: Loyal critic at June 25, 2003 02:11 PM