Album review: Liz Phair

Liz Phair - Girly-Sound To Guyville: The 25th Anniversary Box Set (Matador Records)

Liz Phair.

Liz Phair.

IF MOST people found Madonna's 1992 album Erotica shocking, there was no way in 1993 the largely sexless world of indie/alternative rock was going to be able to handle Liz Phair's debut, Exile In Guyville.

Madonna's frankness about desire, the body, intimacy, and her revelling in a freely expressed sexuality was deemed vulgar by many. Similarly, Phair's admission of "every time I see your face I get real wet between my legs", to one night stands, to dumping guys, to just wanting "letters and sodas" from a nice boyfriend, were too varied, too difficult to pigeon hole, and too much, for some listeners to take.

Phair, like Madonna, put forward the challenging argument that female sexuality was constricted by a definition imposed on it by a patriarchal society, and that it was also a far more complex state of being than society was prepared to allow. This is why Guyville remains a powerful, provocative, statement, arguably with more to say about feminism, sexuality, and women in 2018, than perhaps it did in 1993.

Aside from the politics, Phair's work continues to be astonishing by being an album of brilliant indie guitar rock, brimming with inspired hooks, choruses, and guitar riffs. It sounds loose and lo-fi, but this masks a songwriter who was meticulous in her arrangements and a production that understood the value of atmosphere.

As well as the original album, this box set includes acres of demos and rare tracks. Interesting, but for die-hards only. Of the 18 track original Guyville, Phair created an album for the ages.


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