Rolling Stone album #328
Although she was never able to quite break into the mainstream, Liz Phair was the artist that was at least partly responsible for the female singer/songwriter scene that materialized during the mid to late 90's. Her debut album, Exile In Guyville
fuses lo-fi indie rock with the classic singer/songwriter structure. The double album, the title taken from an Urge Overkill song, was claimed to be a response to the Rolling Stones' classic album Exile on Main St.
, and the pattern is evident, although it is difficult to make a song by song comparison.
was hailed by critics, and topped many best of the year lists, Phair was resented by many of her peers, including Big Black's Steve Albini, who launched attacks against Phair and her record. Nevertheless, the success of this record continued, and rightly so. Phair has had several albums after Exile In Guyville
, but none are very strong, and she didn't stay in the spotlight for very long. By 1995 she had retreated from the public life and married. Luckily her debut album has more staying power than she did.
This is an album that is difficult to file into one genre. There are elements of hard rock, solo piano, power pop, art rock, folk, and classic indie rock. One of the reasons that the album is so great is that Liz had built up so much material prior to her "debut", that this was essentially just the cream of the crop from that material, and thus it is more like a greatest hits album.
Another strength is the way that the lyrics match the music. The lyrics are pretty blunt and vivid and, as evidenced by song titles like "Fu
ck and Run" and "The Divorce Song", there seems to be nothing off limits within the lyrics. There are issues delved into on this album, specifically sexual ones, that had not been addressed in pop music at the time. There is also nothing off limits musically. Each song maintains a very high level of quality, and it is no surprise that she was never able to equal the greatness of this record.
Liz Phair - Guitar, Arranger, Vocals, Producer, Design
Casey Rice - Guitar, Cymbals, Backing Vocals, Handclapping
Brad Wood - Organ, Synthesizer, Bass, Guitar, Percussion, Bongos, Drums, Backing Vocals, Producer, Engineer, Drones, Feedback
Help Me Mary
Fuck and Run
If there is a demand for a track by track review, let me know and I will do one, but pretty much every song is exceptional as already noted, and I don't think I would do justice to the songs.
Recommended for fans of:
This is one of the few albums that I can listen to front to back without skipping a song. This is an exceptional feat, especially for an album containing 18 tracks. Exile in Guyville
also has a fresh feel to it that is lacking in many of her successors in the female singer/songwriter realm. It is almost an essential album for everyone.