Within the Liz Phair story, we have a book load of lessons on how to disappoint everyone.
Not simply her later not great records (after WhiteChocolateSpaceEgg) but her fans let her down. The culture that created her turned on her. And in acts of true feminism that just came off vaguely slutty, you turned right back on the culture by attempting to be everywhere at once, a real work ethic dedicated to dragging her previous Goddess Of The Indie scene into a truly leaked sex tape dynamic of self effacing behaviors and declarative dumb statements.
It’s a tale worthy of a Liz Phair song, but she stopped writing by then. And clearly hanging out with Sheryl Crow is a cry for help.
It all started out so rosy for Liz and me. I found my way to ‘Exile In Guyville’ via some review that noted the frank lyrics, the sex positive (and negative…so just Sex really) ownership of being a modern girl in a modern 90’s dudes world. And I heard ‘6’1′ and I was on board. It wasn’t the usual hype that accompanied female artists who were supposed to represent larger social trends. It was true. This girl could write.
First, ‘The Divorce Song’. Still one of my favorite songs that captures relationships in barely three verses. And nails it. Continued with ‘Fuck and Run’ and ‘Help Me Mary’ and you see something within her that appeared genuine, and the thing was self doubt, over self rationalization, finding clues and omens in spilled sugar left to melt.
Despite not being a ‘girl’, I understood every word as if I wrote them. This music was not simply an indictment on being a girl songwriter in a male scene. It was an indictment of relationships, male female dynamics in general. And she made a genius case with that record.
And now….Liz Phair was something coming, the Artist To Watch, the next Babe Dylan. And her new album ‘Whipsmart’ was a true continuation of the trip started from ‘Exile’. It was about living in LA, musicians and scene makers now know her name. And more brilliant slabs of confessional, confused, cutting lyrics and a mix of musical styles that still excites in its lack of easy definition. ‘Shane’. ‘May Queen’. ‘Jealousy’.
And now, more magazines, more scene making, more crowning of Liz Phair as the voice of the Girlie generation.
But the thing is…. Liz Phair, if you don’t know her….if you only know her personality and movements from her confessional tones….one thing you did not get from her was confidence. Despite the sloganeering, despite the increasingly dumb Statesman of The Scene tags, this is a real live girl with real live doubt.
And how do you bring this self doubt into a maelstrom of cultural dialog? Make a good rock and roll record, cause that’s what she did. ‘Whitechocolatespaceegg’ is a fine record, almost Stones-y at moments, and smart writing, great arrangements. A fave of mine.
And the knives came out. The critics appreciated it but thought she went to big in sound. The very indie culture that Queened her turned their backs on her and found the next female superstar, which God Help Me may have been The Moldy Peaches. And she flailed in public. And disappeared…
Now….she didn’t really disappear. This isnt ‘Eddie And The Cruisers’. She put out a pure pop album and started putting out songs about how awesome it is to do young guys and fuck her boyfriend.
Which is also honest. But. We didn’t like THIS version of Liz honesty. Last I heard she was pimping the GirlieSound ep that started her.
And now…there’s a Liz shaped impact on the scene that can’t be filled with any number of lesser chicks.
Now….I hope she saved her money.
Or in her own words:
It’s nice to be liked
But it’s better by far to get paid
I know that most of the friends that I have
Don’t really see it that way
But if you could give ’em each one wish
How much do you wanna bet?
They’d wish success for themselves and their friends
And that would include lots of money