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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Record Reviews > Liz Phair

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Liz Phair-Liz Phair (Capitol)

Hardcore Liz Phair fans weened on the spiky likes of Exile From Guyville and Whip-Smart have apparently reacted with disdain towards the latest album from the queen of alt-rock.  Well, Liz Phair is definitely a change of direction for the singer, but it's also her best album yet.  On the new album, Liz just seems to decide, "fuck it, I've had it with just having a cult following, I wanna be a POP-ROCK STAR!"  Good for her!

Of course, there's no way that an unique talent like Phair is going to do a Justin Timberlake or Jessica Simpson album.  Phair is in her mid-thirties and recently divorced, she isn't likely to drop a bunch of smiley-faced odes to the power of love.  She's not going to fall back on empty beats instead of having a tune.  But there is nothing wrong with marrying a good melody to Phair's traditionally eloquent confessional lyrics.   

Those lyrics are every bit as good as Phair's previous work, and in many ways more complex.  Unlike many navel gazing post-breakup albums, Liz Phair is sort of the aural equivalent of a middle-aged guy buying a sports car.  The overall feel one takes from the album is that of a woman who is growing older, had kids, but still is desperate to prove she is still a sexually potent being.  If Britney likes to play a slutty virgin, Phair is a horny divorcée desperate to get a little sumthin' sumthin'.

So when she pumps herself up for (mostly younger) guys, who quite possibly don't deserve her, in songs like the crunchy "Extraordinary" and the wondrous single "Why Can't I?" it is bizarre mix of seduction and desperation.  "It's Sweet" is a lovely examination of a truly down and dirty one-night stand.  "Favorite" has Phair using the dubious compliment "you're like my favorite underwear," which I believe she means as a supreme tribute... you're comfortable and make me feel sexy.  "Rock Me" has her tempting a boy who would just as soon play X-Box while Liz acknowledges the gulf in their experience, "Your record collection don't exist, you don't even know who Liz Phair is, pure potential with no credentials."

She can sometimes go a little too far, but that's part of her charm, too.  In "H.W.C." when she begs "give me your hot, white come" over and over it is a little uncomfortable to hear, and yet stunning in its naked vulnerability.  Still, Phair does recognize how her life influences those around her, "Little Digger" is a heart-breaking examination of how her son reacts to mommy bringing home strange guys. 

The people who write off Liz Phair as a sellout just aren't getting the point.  It is every bit as deep and touching as Phair's previous work.  If Liz feels the need to bring in hip producers The Matrix (Avril Lavigne) to get a shot at receiving some radio airplay, who can begrudge her?  It'll still be the smartest stuff on the station.   (7/03)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright © 2003 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: September 28, 2003.

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Copyright © 2003 PopEntertainment.com All rights reserved. Posted: September 28, 2003.