Anybody who loves Liz Phair's "Exile in Guyville" knows what she is capable of writing. The album, which was marketed as a song-by-song response to the Rolling Stones' "Exile on Mainstreet", is filled with blunt, clever lyrics that touch on sex, relationships, fame, and friendship.
At the time of its release, there was much talk about lines like "I wanna fuck you like a dog" ("Flower") or "Fuck and Run / Even when I was twelve" ("Fuck and Run"). But those lyrics are tempered with honest feelings of loss and disappointment like "The Divorce Song" and "Dance of the Seven Veils".
Brad Wood's production built on the lo-fi honesty of her home demos while adding a modest amount of professionalism to the arrangements. It was close to perfect and, as it turns out, hard to top.
For her upcoming self-titled album, Phair has teamed up with production team The Matrix, who brought us Avril Lavigne. Imagine what that would sound like... and you'd pretty much nail it. There's no subtlety to the songs that I've heard. It just screams, "look at me, look at me!" It doesn't sound honest.
I look back to when a friend first played "Guyville" for me. I was really into PJ Harvey at the time, thanks to hearing her on John Peel's show when our public radio station played it. My friend commented that Phair "rips PJ a new one."
It didn't quite work out that way, did it? Phair has made mediocre albums since Guyville and is now trying to break into the youth market by imitating somebody half her age. PJ Harvey has always followed her muse. She's changed over time, but only to challenge herself. She has never tried to be the next big thing. She still has her integrity, and she continues to do exactly what she wants...
If Liz Phair fails with her new look and sound, she won't be taken seriously ever again. She will forever be a has-been. It's a shame, because we could really use the honesty of "Exile in Guyville" in 2003.