Eponymous albums are usually either debuts or the work of musicians trying to introduce themselves to a new audience. Count Liz Phair among the latter. It?s Phair's fourth studio album, but her first since 1998, and it's a... more » long way from the arty, low-fi sound that marked her true full-length debut, 1993's Exile in Guyville. Phair has developed into a considerably more confident singer, while her songs and the production they receive here are as slick and radio-friendly as anything by, say, Avril Lavigne. That?s no surprise, since Lavigne's production team, the Matrix, produced many of the tracks here. (The rest are helmed by LA rock stalwarts Michael Penn and Pete Yorn producer R. Walt Vincent.) Sex is still Phair's primary subject, whether it?s comparing a lover to a comfortable pair of old underwear ("Favorite"), asking a much younger man to "Rock Me" all night long, or praising the beauty benefits of oral sex ("H.W.C."). The only time Phair lets the cheery facade crack a bit is on "Little Digger," on which Phair tries to explain to her young son why the man she's currently dating is not the boy's father. Who could've guessed that even the freest, best-protected sex could have such far-reaching, unintended consequences? --Keith Moerer« less
Eponymous albums are usually either debuts or the work of musicians trying to introduce themselves to a new audience. Count Liz Phair among the latter. It?s Phair's fourth studio album, but her first since 1998, and it's a long way from the arty, low-fi sound that marked her true full-length debut, 1993's Exile in Guyville. Phair has developed into a considerably more confident singer, while her songs and the production they receive here are as slick and radio-friendly as anything by, say, Avril Lavigne. That?s no surprise, since Lavigne's production team, the Matrix, produced many of the tracks here. (The rest are helmed by LA rock stalwarts Michael Penn and Pete Yorn producer R. Walt Vincent.) Sex is still Phair's primary subject, whether it?s comparing a lover to a comfortable pair of old underwear ("Favorite"), asking a much younger man to "Rock Me" all night long, or praising the beauty benefits of oral sex ("H.W.C."). The only time Phair lets the cheery facade crack a bit is on "Little Digger," on which Phair tries to explain to her young son why the man she's currently dating is not the boy's father. Who could've guessed that even the freest, best-protected sex could have such far-reaching, unintended consequences? --Keith Moerer
liz phair is a curious star--the more she produces the more adolescent she gets. her early works, written in her early twenties, really seemed sort of precocious, even profound. perhaps the joke was on both of us. oh well, i wish she left the music world altogether and entered the world of porn, where, it may be, her true gifts are yet to burst into full bloom, or flames. her latest ouput is perfect for selling jeans, or cruise ship packages, or milfish escapades...or something. it makes me dream of all those ripening highschool girls that always lay beyond the reach of my wit, ingenuity, and, i suppose, looks. Sincerity too, I might as well admit
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Old-school Liz fan who loves this record
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've been somewhat psycho about Liz since the week Exile in Guyville came out. I have no desire for her to release the same album over and over, so I welcome this new record for the excellent piece of pop/rock that it is. There are so, so many great vintage Liz songs here, like "It's Sweet," "Take A Look," "Little Digger" "Firewalker," "Love/Hate Transmission" and "My Bionic Eyes." Yeah yeah yeah, the Matrix songs aren't really a lot like old Liz, unless you're enough of a fan to know "Rocket Boy," or to realize that "Jealousy" and "Johnny Feelgood" are really the same kind of songs.Indie rockers, just grow up and admit you love Styx, Cheap Trick and Journey, and allow yourself to love this record too. And don't let some cheap sexism and ageism make you proclaim that songs like "H.W.C." are stupid and embarrassing. If it had appeared on either of Liz's first two albums, it would be proclaimed a subversive masterpiece.Don't be an indiesnob. If you like Liz Phair the album, just let yourself like it!"
"It's nice to be liked..."
librarydelish | oak lawn, il United States | 09/12/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I wanted to love this album. It's been so easy for me to love Liz Phair in the past. While it's sad that her new album doesn't hold the same appeal as her others, it's also extremely unfair to expect her to pigeonhole herself for her entire career. The woman, after years of experimenting and being rewarded with creative success, has decided to experiment in hopes of commercial success. She's living that painfully honest Whitechocolatespaceegg lyric - "It's nice to be liked, but it's better by far to get paid."A lot has been said about the Matrix production on Liz Phair's new album, partly because they seem like such strange bedfellows and partly because these songs are seeing a modicum of airplay. I will admit that I pretty much hate the Matrix-produced songs, with the exception of "Extraordinary" which is saved by the fantastic lyrics and attitude. "Why Can't I?" in particular sounds so Avril, it's painful for me to listen to. When I first heard the synthetic vocal echo, I turned the radio off in horror. But the Matrix only accounts for five out of the fourteen songs on the album. The other nine songs are still more pop than Exile In Guyville...but so was Whitechocolatespaceegg.If we're all going to obsess about the production, I'd like to take a second to focus on the songs produced by Michael Penn. He is an extremely under-appreciated musician and songwriter, and has once again been overlooked for his contribution to the better songs on this album. His most recent album, MP4, was compared repeatedly to the Beatles, and he infuses Phair's songs with a much more subtle pop sound than the vocal tricks and cliché sounds of the Matrix. Originally, all of the songs on her new album were to be collaborations with Michael Penn. (I would have liked to hear *that* album all the way through.) It's not as though these songs aren't also different from Phair's past albums, but the change is more palatable for fans of the old sound. "Little Digger," "Favorite," and "Friend of Mine" remain as fantastic Penn-produced moments in the middle of radioland platitudes. I also like the tracks that Liz produced herself, especially "Firewalker," with its coy rhythms and unexpected progressions. **Should you buy this album? It depends. If you are a person who straddles the line of mainstream and old-school indie, if your music collection has both the Pixies and Avril Lavigne, you'll probably enjoy it. But if you can't stand the current teen sound, or *only* listen to the current teen sound, you'll be paying for half an album.In the meantime, some of us die-hard Liz Phair fans should probably calm down a little. So she made an album we can't put ourselves behind fully. The best musicians, with the most longevity, are the ones who experiment. And you're not experimenting enough if you never falter. I, personally, can't wait to see where she goes from here. At least she isn't predictable. (1 star for Matrix-produced, 4 for non-Matrix tracks)"
Delirium | NY, United States | 08/15/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I've been a Liz Phair fan for a long time and I was scared of this album. Deathly afraid. But then I listened to it. And listened again. And sang along in spite of myself. Yeah, it's poppy. Yeah, it's infectious. Yeah, "Why Can't I" is more than reminiscent of Avril Levigne. So what? Perhaps it was time for the Indie Queen to shake it up. And she has. Musicians evolve, sometimes into something people don't like, sometimes into something merely a little different. Liz Phair has evolved, in my opinion, into something a little different. She's not the same woman she was when she recorded "Exile in Guyville". So "Liz Phair" isn't going to be the same album. I crank up "Extraordinary" on my car stereo and sing along to it's infectious tune. I listen to "Little Digger" and understand the difficulty of explaining divorce to a young kid. And what woman doesn't want to find a man who feels like "My Favorite Underwear"? Love indie Liz and wish she would never change? Don't buy this album, you won't be pleased. Love Liz and what she has to say? It's still there in "Liz Phair", just in a different package."
That's minus one star, by the way....
Nigel | 06/26/2003
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Rats, I've been defending Liz's decision to go mainstream and sex in a MTV-friendly way ever since I heard what she was up to. It's not like being 36 and still wanting to have a sexy image is the work of the antichrist or anything. The cover doesn't make me want to cry "sell out" although it doesn't do anything for me, except make me wonder why she wants us to look up her nostrils....Trouble is, I eventually had to listen to the damn thing and it reeks. There's maybe about 3 minutes of the Liz Phair I used to love here (all but the chorus of "Rock Me" and the start of "Bionic Eyes"), the rest is just a nasal version of Avril Lavigne with worse tunes. It's a bloody tragedy -- it doesn't even work as an ironic joke, let alone an attempt to break new ground. If you listen to "Rock Me" you'll hear enough of the old Liz to make you feel sad and angry about what she's turned herself or allowed herself to be turned into. But for the rest there's barely a hint that there's a human being behind the production and gadgets at all, let alone the woman who gave us Exile in Guyville. So long, Liz."
Give Liz a Phair Chance
Brett | Omaha, NE USA | 06/25/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I suspect that there will be an outrageous backlash against Liz for "selling out" on this album. My answer to those "loyalists" is that Liz's wanting to be a bona-fide star after a decade in the business is her choice to make - not yours. After all, why should less-talenting jokes like Avril Lavigne get paid millions and grace magazine covers while actual songwriters like Liz get relegated to indie status? In my opinion, WhiteChocolateSpaceEgg was a masterpiece - far better than Exile or Whip-Smart. So if you didn't like SpaceEgg, you won't be buying this one anyway. My problem with 'Liz Phair' isn't the production, it's with the many bland choruses. There are some terrific verses in these songs, and some great sounding music, but some of the choruses can be downright hokey. A great example is "Rock Me," in which a promising song is destroyed by an uninspired chorus. What would a Liz Phair CD be without an overtly sexual tune and "H.W.C." delivers in fine fashion. The real hidden gem here is "Little Digger," which will bring tears to your eyes if you have a heart in your chest. For sheer summer candy, I'll take "Why Can't I" over anything on the radio right now. And pay attention to the lyrics, because it's classic Liz through and through. Maybe the sound has changed, but so has she, and so have all of us. This album will grow on you, and it's pretty consistent from start to finish. Overall, this is a slightly above-average album, but it's certainly not bad. Sure, the glossy production renders even the lesser songs radio-friendly, but this is Liz's shot at stardom and as a long-time fan, here's hoping she gets it."