Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Liz Phair's classic debut, 1993's Exile In Guyville, is going to be reissued by ATO Records, the label founded by Dave Matthews. (I read about it on Billboard).

I remember reading rave reviews of it when it came out. I picked it up, and was at first surprised by the lo-fi sound, but after a listen or two, really got into it. But man, the critics were ga-ga for her. I remember when her next album came out, Whip-Smart, a critic wrote in his (and it was definitely a he) review: "It's kind of embarassing how we all fell for her." I have a theory about that.

I remember once reading David Lee Roth saying that critics loved Elvis Costello and they didn't like him. This was, according to Diamond Dave, because they all looked like Elvis Costello, and none of them were anything like him. This was probably true.

Now, if you look like Elvis Costello - but you're a rock critic and not a rock star - hot chicks can be tough to come by. Liz Phair seemed like the hottest possible gal who would be approachable by the average indie-type, Pavement-worshipping critic. I think that, by her second album, when it was clear that she was shooting for super-stardom and not just indie-stardom, it was like having your absolute dream girl leave you for the captain of the football team. The bile spewed in her direction after that was poisonous. To be fair, she did seem like she'd do anything for a hit record, to be in magazines, and to be popular. I myself really like her third album, Whitechocolatespaceegg, but I don't love anything she's done since then.

Anyway, the reissue comes with a DVD that sees her interviewing people from the Chicago music scene, including the famous cranky producer Steve Albini (who referred to her as a "slut" back in the day). That alone will probably be worth the price of admission.

ATO has also signed her for a new album. Hopefully she'll feel comfortable enough to make the music she wants to; she's smart enough now to know that, at 40-something, she's not going to have a top 40 hit, and she will never be forgiven by the indie scene.

I did see a particularly lame post by a blog asking if it is time to "stop hating on Dave Matthews" now that he's signed Phair, as well as My Morning Jacket and Radiohead. You don't have to want to hang out with his fans, or like his music: but how can you not respect that he's had an incredible career, never sold out, and totally calls his own shots (not to mention donates time and money to good causes). What has J. Mascis done for anyone lately, other than record a lame version of "Leaving On A Jet Plane"? Yes, it is time to stop hating.

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