Category: Liz Phair

Liz Phair – Whip-Smart

ARTIST: Liz Phair 220px-Liz_Phair_-_Whip-Smart

TITLE:  Whip-Smart

YEAR RELEASED: 1994

CHART ACTION: #27

SINGLES: Supernova (#78, #6 Modern Rock), Whip-Smart (#24 Modern Rock), Jealousy (feature track on an EP, Juvenilia, which hit #78 on the album chart)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: Liz Phair, Brad Wood, Casey Rice

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The follow-up to her cult classic debut has her best known song, but is uneven.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Phair had an almost impossible task of following up her landmark Exile in Guyville, Her new-found fame also got in the way with her writing and recording process, so much so that they moved the sessions to the Bahamas to get away from Chicago.

What resulted was an album with some brilliant moments, especially “Supernova” and “May Queen”. The album as a whole, though, didn’t unify. There was a theme, supposedly, but it didn’t cohere. It’s an album of individual songs – some great, some not so great. The production adds to this, as in the middle of the record many of the songs sound similar in tone and arrangement.

Another reason for the unevenness is that about 1/3 of the songs dated from her “Girly Sound” cassettes, with some updates. Still, it’s worth picking up as there’s a lot of good stuff here, despite the mediocre nature of some tracks.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Jealousy” was promoted with an EP containing some of the “Girly Sound” tapes, but with no other label support from Atlantic (who had a deal with Matador, her old independent company) she was reluctant to go on tour, as she was feeling uneasy with fame and the touring lifestyle. They responded by threatening to drop her contract, but Phair stood firm.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION:  No

GRADE: B: “Supernova” is worth the price of admission, and some of the tracks are pretty good. The mediocre tracks would be better served if they weren’t clustered together.

Liz Phair – Exile in Guyville

ARTIST: Liz Phair 220px-Liz_Phair_-_Exile_in_Guyville
TITLE: Exile in Guyville
YEAR RELEASED: 1993
CHART ACTION: #196, #12 Heatseekers
SINGLES: None
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Never Said was a video. Divorce Song, Fuck and Run, and a few others made college or alt radio.
LINEUP: Liz Phair, Casey Rice, Brad Wood, Tony Marlotti.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Chicago suburbanite begins writing songs, makes friends in the Chicago alternative scene, records album, makes history.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Makes history? Yeah, this is kind of a landmark in alt-rock. It was a young woman who was being unafraid to tell her story and emotions. It was blunt. That was quite unusual, especially in the alt-rock world, for a woman to be so blunt and open.

The music is simple, yet has a power on its own. The simple instrumentation on many tracks, coupled with some sonic production tricks on others, gave the album a unique feel. Phair’s vocals were also unique at that time – instead of showing off a vocal range or vibrato, she was a lower-register singer with an unadorned voice.

However, the album is long (18 tracks) and some of the production makes the album feel longer. I realized that as much as I loved the album, by track 16 I wasn’t as familiar with it as I thought I was – which means I was tuning out or just stopping the record after a while. Yet, the record is tremendous, as an artistic statement and as art itself.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The term Guyville is from an Urge Overkill song.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Three songs added on a re-release. They’re not vital.

GRADE: A: I thought hard about this grade. My grumpy side said it’s too long. My happy side said that this record brings me a lot of joy and there’s not a bad cut. I split the difference