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Old 12-27-2018, 07:58 AM
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Default Liz Phair - Exile in Guyville (1993) 15th Anniversary Edition 2008 [Audio CD]

Liz Phair - Exile in Guyville (1993) 15th Anniversary Edition 2008
EAC | FLAC | Tracks (Cue&Log) ~ 413 Mb | Mp3 (CBR320) ~ 173 Mb | Scans included
Indie Rock, Lo-Fi | Label: ATO Records | # ATO0059, 88088-21627-2 | Time: 01:09:31

Exile in Guyville is the debut album by American indie rock singer-songwriter Liz Phair. It was released in June 1993 to widespread critical and commercial success, and it was ranked at 327 by Rolling Stone in its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list. The album is considered a landmark feminist album that changed indie music entirely by paving the way for more female singer/songwriters like Fiona Apple and Cat Power.

On March 31, 2008, Pitchfork Media announced that Phair had signed a new deal with ATO Records and that her first release for the label would be a special 15th Anniversary reissue of Exile in Guyville, featuring three bonus tracks from the original Guyville recording sessions and an accompanying DVD about the album's creation.

The album, which was out of print, was again available on CD, vinyl and, for the first time, in digital format. The reissue package includes three previously unreleased songs from the original recording sessions: "Ant in Alaska", "Say You", and an untitled instrumental with Phair on guitar (commonly known as "Standing"). A recording of Phair's version of "Wild Thing" (based on the melody of The Troggs song) was planned for inclusion, but dropped at the last moment; the song was later included on the "Girlysound" disc of Phair's "Funstyle" album.

If Exile in Guyville is shockingly assured and fully formed for a debut album, there are a number of reasons why. Most prominent of these is that many of the songs were initially essayed on Liz Phair's homemade cassette Girlysound, which means that the songs are essentially the cream of the crop from an exceptionally talented songwriter. Second, there's its structure, infamously patterned after the Stones' Exile on Main St., but not the song-by-song response Phair promoted it as. (Just try to match the albums up: is the "blow-job queen" fantasy of "Flower" really the answer to the painful elegy "Let It Loose"?) Then, most notably, there's Phair and producer Brad Wood's deft studio skills, bringing a variety of textures and moods to a basic, lo-fi production. There is as much hard rock as there are eerie solo piano pieces, and there's everything in between from unadulterated power pop, winking art rock, folk songs, and classic indie rock. Then, there are Phair's songs themselves. At the time, her gleefully profane, clever lyrics received endless attention (there's nothing that rock critics love more than a girl who plays into their geek fantasies, even - or maybe especially - if she's mocking them), but years later, what still astounds is the depth of the writing, how her music matches her clear-eyed, vivid words, whether it's on the self-loathing "Fuck and Run," the evocative mood piece "Stratford-on-Guy," or the swaggering breakup anthem "6'1"," or how she nails the dissolution of a long-term relationship on "The Divorce Song." Each of these 18 songs maintains this high level of quality, showcasing a singer/songwriter of immense imagination, musically and lyrically. If she never equaled this record, well, few could. [The 2008 deluxe edition features three "unreleased B-sides": "Ant in Alaska," an acoustic, six-minute song that shares the clarity and honesty of the album's tracks, but not their focus; "Instrumental," a darker piece similar to "Shatter" or "Explain It to Me," minus the vocals; and "Say You," a reverb-drenched fake reggae novelty, complete with lazy sax solos. The real reason this reissue can be called deluxe is the documentary on its DVD, which works as a reunion of Chicago's indie rock luminaries from the '90s as much as it explores the making of Exile in Guyville and its impact on everyone involved. Interviews with producer Brad Wood, John Cusack, Steve Albini, Chris Brokaw, Ira Glass, Matador's Gerard Cosloy, and Urge Overkill's Blackie Onassis and Nash Kato are in-depth, rewarding, and revealing, offering surprises even to fans who are well-versed in Chicago's, and Phair's, mythology when Guyville was released.]

You break all kinds of unwritten rules when you're a guy who admires a girl. The white suburban kids who idolize gangster rappers are old news, and the rich kids have always loved to rub elbows with the poor. But when a man tries to identify with a woman, he doesn't just hit the normal problems of "white male gaze" and "exploitation of the other" and "being a jackass": There's also the third rail of male sexuality, where identifying too closely with a woman might make you seem, perish the thought, sensitive. So instead, the guys who dig a girl like Liz Phair have to play up the attraction, the lust, the submission to a rock'n'roll goddess- even when, for many of them, the lust ain't the main draw.

The other tactic is to take credit for what she's done. And guys can take plenty of credit for Phair's early career. Rock critics like Bill Wyman brought Phair to Chicago's attention when they ranted and raved about Guyville weeks before the thing came out. The Rolling Stones recorded Exile on Main Street, the loose template for Guyville's 18 tracks- and one of the blues-rock genomes that saved this from being just another singer-songwriter set. And a couple other guys, co-producer Brad Wood and engineer Casey Rice, helped nail the minimalist production of Guyville and its follow-up, the underrated Whip-Smart.

It was the guys like her Johnny or her Joe- the titular guys in the indie boy's club centered in and around Chicago's Wicker Park- who preened for her, dicked her over, and taught her how to push back, inspiring her and making it necessary for her to write these songs in the first place. And it was guys who took the piss when she started headlining at venues that were too big for an amateur. Playing a New Year's Eve show at the Metro as your sixth or seventh gig is a lot to bite off. And if I recall correctly, she bit. But stagecraft and starpower weren't the point: Those of us who were taken in by Phair loved her because she was- sorry to use the word- real.

Men and women have written paeons to Phair since Guyville was released, putting her swagger, strength, and mundanity in whatever context meant the most to them- "girl next door," "older sister," "younger sister," "easy lay," "slut next door," "bitch." But let's start with "female rocker." Guyville still runs up your spine on track one with its full-on opener, "6'1'", which is the best song she's ever recorded: tough but exposed, with cute feints in the lyrics, a wicked riff, and the door slamming open on her sassy tomboy vocals. On cuts like these, guys can dig Phair because she's one of the guys.

The songs are mostly sprints or drones, and on relistening to it, it's striking to hear the full-band cuts next to the solitary head space of songs like "Glory" or "Shatter", where she's backed more by a memory of guitar than by the raunchy blues-rock of the album's other half. The production of the ballads replicates the intimacy of a bedroom recording without the tape hiss or bum notes, which is an awesome illusion; and only a beginning songwriter could make such elemental riffs sound so exciting.

Phair has famously struggled to become a star, and never quite made it. Guyville turned her into an object of fascination, but those early gigs revealed she wasn't a superstar: She had to get by on talent, and perceptiveness. She has the gift of turning everyday downers into rock, and the shock came when she sang about things that nobody else discussed in public.

The cover shot nipple, "I want to be your blow job queen," the outro of "Fuck and Run" ("...even when I was 12")- this stuff was startling at the time, but I'm guessing it won't register with any teenagers who discover this today. You can get Savage Love right on your cell phone, and young adults today can browse mainstream blogs and read about machines that will fuck you. Sad to say that at the time, it was shocking to talk about non-missionary sex with the girl you could take home to mom, but today, on "Flower"- the one about blow jobs- the line that surprises is her Dungeons & Dragons-like reference to "minions." (On the original, she said she'd fuck the guy's girlfriend.)

Also hard to explain would be the sound, which is grey and wedged entirely in the midrange. When a "remastered" edition was announced, I had to wonder if the remasterer had actually heard the thing before taking the job- but hearing it now, the treatment works: the rhythm section, when there is one, has more punch, and Phair's vocals come a little closer to your earlobe. The package also comes with a poorly-made DVD of interviews that Phair conducted with people from Chicago who knew her when- Steve Albini, Ira Glass, the Urge Overkill guys. It makes a scene that fancied itself "the next Seattle" seem exactly as insular and provincial as it really was.

More useful would have been a tighter focus on Phair- say, a better set of her B-sides and demos. Would it have killed ATO to throw in more of her early, even less-inhibited Girly Sounds material? Three B-sides grace this reissue, including the meandering "Ant in Alaska" and a curious cover of Lynn Tait's "Say You". They're nice throwaways, but they explain little about what was going on around the making of her debut.

Fifteen years on, Guyville occasionally sounds dated- for its particular sexiness, and its particular indieness. But the songwriting holds up. She ticks off all the bruises and embarrassments of relationships, and never lets her defenses get in the way. Naturally as a guy, I can't speak for what women saw in the record back then, or how young women will take it now. But of all the albums written from a woman's perspective, this is one of the most accessible to men. It's intriguing to watch her deal with us- not as a mere revolutionary, but as someone who knows that sex will always be tough, so she always has to be tougher. She's been tested in ways we never will be, and we understand just enough to admire her for it. Men don't get what it's like to be a woman. But spinning this record, you swear that you could.


01. 6' 1" (3:07)
02. Help Me Mary (2:16)
03. Glory (1:30)
04. Dance of the Seven Veils (2:30)
05. Never Said (3:16)
06. Soap Star Joe (2:44)
07. Explain It to Me (3:12)
08. Canary (3:20)
09. Mesmerizing (3:56)
10. Fuck and Run (3:08)
11. Girls! Girls! Girls! (2:20)
12. Divorce Song (3:20)
13. Shatter (5:29)
14. Flower (2:03)
15. Johnny Sunshine (3:27)
16. Gunshy (3:15)
17. Stratford-On-Guy (2:59)
18. Strange Loop (4:57)
19. Ant in Alaska (unreleased B-side) (5:48)
20. Say You (unreleased B-side) (3:25)
21. Instrumental (unreleased B-side) (3:29)

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