By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Furthermore, the indie-lovers whining about her new sound are listening with superficial ears. (Nobody dissed Beck when he grabbed at MTV with Midnight Vultures.) The production may be more polished, but her songwriting is no worse than on her last two albums. Along with a lot of lame shit, “Good Love Never Dies” is fucking heartbreaking, and “H.W.C.” (“hot white cum”) is an excellent follow-up to “Flower.” Production aside, she hasn’t given up her essential weirdness — she’s just dressed it more tastefully.
The reason I ain’t mad at her is two-fold: One, there’s nothing inherently wrong with craving popular success. Two, she’s not selling out: She’s just not capable of better. She admitted this recently in Spinmagazine: “Guyvillewas a really profound album, and I’ve tried to capture that again. But I can’t do it. I’m incapable of writing that kind of album again.”
Like I said, Phair has never been comfortable within the indie world, and I doubt there’s room for her in the pop world. That’s sad, because it could use her, but I don’t mistrust her desire to get on the radio. In fact, I respect it. Liz Phair wants to be a star — a complicated intellectual white-bread sexpot star. She’s just finally coming out about it. She said it best in the Spininterview: “Do I want to seemauthentic or feelauthentic? I chose feel.” I believe her. I respect her choice. And if this is the authentic Liz Phair, I now know for certain why I never really dug her that much in the first place.
2. All She Needs Is Love, Love, Fuckin’ Love
So, the supersmart singer and songwriter whose meticulously paced debut album, Exile in Guyville, exposed the conflicted lives of indie-rock girls in the ’90s — right down to their mean roommates and disassociated doggie-style one-nighters — has sold out. Gone soft, they say; making a craven bid for the awful and shameful fate that brought Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt and Green Day down into the mainstream muck alongside Billy Joel. Having toiled for so long in the respectable but not terribly well-heeled ranks of sophisticated rockers of marginal appeal, Liz Phair now wants what everyone wants, when it comes right down to it — a salivating following on TRL.
Which isn’t so bad, really. The problem is what Phair did to get there: Hired Avril Lavigne’s producers, the Matrix (the evident gurus to aspiring pop stars with long stringy hair to dangle in their eyes), minimized instances of fuck in her lyrics, posed ridiculously like a coy nymphet in clothes that look like they might have been ordered from the Hello Kitty! catalog, her mouth half open and her nubile knees spread. You almost wonder why she stopped there and didn’t have her teeth outfitted in braces for the overhaul.
Part of the outrage is well-placed — what the fuck isshe doing in those PR photos? Another part forgets who Liz Phair was, and is: never, ever anybody’s rebel. What dignified her, sanctified her, made our hearts break and allowed us to find ourselves in her was that she told the truth about one big thing: her raging longing to be loved. Loved, loved, loved. Loved by men, envied by women, adored by the masses — loved despite her obvious and humanizing inadequacies (loud, moody, not quite pretty enough). “I want to be cool, tall, vulnerable and luscious,” she sang on whitechocolatespaceegg,“I would have it all if I could only have this much.” Even Exile’s “Fuck and Run,” as much as it’s now been twisted into some forthright anthem of girlish defiance, was nearly desperate at its core: “I want a boyfriend,” Phair pleaded. “I want a boyfriend/I want all that stupid old shit/letters and sodas.” For all her naughtiness, she was never Missy Elliott, asking for advance notice before a date so she could shave her choca, instructing her lover to “go downtown and eat it like a vulture.” Phair has always been more compliant than that. At her rawest, she told of teen girls gossiping about a classmate’s stubbly bikini line. Most of the time she was stomping her feet, filling her Chicago microbrew with tears and complaining bitterly about how the mixed-up bickering of lovers could ruin a perfectly good day.
That was her charm from the start, nearly 10 years ago. She was an average-looking straight-haired dishwater-blond upper-middle-class 26-year-old woman with a guitar and a long string of boyfriends behind her, boyfriends who misconstrued her and told her she wasn’t worth talking to (after, we assume, she lost that goddamn map); Johnny Feelgoods who threw her around in the back of their convertible cars and left her aching for just one more night. And she had a voice, and wit, and she’d made a record, which isn’t all that common among her kind.
That’s still her charm. The difference now is that Phair got married, had a baby (we accused her of going soft, then, too) got divorced and is raising her 6-year-old son alone. Not too many women like her are making major-label records, either — certainly none on Capitol, as far as I can tell — and none are writing about their ‰ lives with Phair’s still-exacting observations. Between her lines you can hear her current truth: She is no longer in a position to make a well-reviewed record that makes no money. She needs to make a record that means she doesn’t have to make too many more.