Today’s album was an interesting and different album, as I listened to the debut album from Liz Phair, “Exile in Guyville”. She indicates that the song structures were built and sequenced as a response to “Exile on Main Street” by the Stones, but many of these songs were written over different time frames and the correlation can be challenging to reconcile. All of that noted, it is a highly regarded record by many and is rated #56 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
In summary, your first reaction when listening to this record is that Liz must have really been going through a few things when she wrote these songs
. (All of the songs are of her own writing, and she also handles the vocals and a lot of the guitar and piano work as well). She actually maintains that most of the songs are NOT autobiographical but associated with experiences she witnessed in her social circle and friend group. Either way, the net sum of these 18 songs is a pretty blunt, candid and sometimes jarring assessment of relationships with others, as well as one’s self.
Musically, the sound is pretty raw and bare. Most tracks are simply guitar, bass and drums, with low-key vocals, and there are a couple of songs with piano or other instruments as well. My favorites tend to lean towards the more melodic, and I enjoyed “Never Said”, “Soap Star Joe”, and “Canary” with some haunting piano accompaniment. “Divorce Song” has some really powerful lyrics about acceptance and rejection in a relationship, and her story-telling is pretty remarkable through these songs. If I had to describe Liz Phair to someone unfamiliar, I would qualify her as 60% Patti Smith, 30% Sheryl Crow, and 10% Joan Jett. The raw sexuality, honesty and candor of many of her songs, including “Fuck and Run” and “Flower”, certainly stands out, and she doesn’t hide from herself in anyway, including the topless photo of her on the album cover. On “Fuck and Run”, she willingly gives in to the emotions she wants to avoid, acknowledging that her own habitual choices run counter to her desire for a meaningful, long-lasting relationship. It is pretty intense and whether it is autobiographical or not, it is a lot to take in.
I don’t know that I will add a lot to the playlist from this record, but I’m definitely glad I took the time to listen closely. There is a highly disproportionate representation of males vs. females in the world of rock and roll, and I think we are all better served when that equation receives some appropriate rebalancing.