Liz Phair, album by album
Remember Liz Phair?
She’s the one who shook up the indie-rock community with “Exile in Guyvile” in 1993, only to flame out a decade later with a self-titled bid for mainstream fame.
But there’s a little more to it than that. We took a look album by album to see just what happened to Phair’s once-promising career. It’s an interesting journey, and one that may not be finished yet.
‘Exile in Guyville’ 1993, Matador Records
Phair’s sexed-up debut resonated throughout the indie community. Critics loved the honest, raunchy lyrics, and fans threw out phrases such as “life-changing.” This one landed her on the cover of Rolling Stone, as well on as countless “best of” lists to this day.
‘Whip-Smart’ 1994, Matador Records
At the time, “Whip-Smart” was seen as a sophomore slump — but only because expectations were so high following “Guyville.” Phair mined similar territory as her debut — how to live in the modern world as a single, sexually liberated young woman — which only made listeners compare the two albums more.
‘Whitechocolatespaceegg’ 1998, Matador Records/Columbia
No longer a freewheeling single lady, Phair turned her thoughts to motherhood and adult relationships on this album. It did slightly less well in sales than “Whip-Smart,” though critics liked it just as much.
‘Liz Phair’ 2003, Columbia
Phair garnered big buzz again with this album, but not so positively. Her collaboration with the Matrix, pop producers of Avril Lavigne among others, led many to accuse Phair of selling out (Pitchfork famously rated it 0.0 out of 10). Funnily enough, what was seen as a blatant bid for mainstream attention really did result in better sales, and it reached 27 on the Billboard 200.
‘Somebody’s Miracle’ 2005, Columbia
Backing away from the slick pop of “Liz Phair,” “Somebody’s Miracle” saw Phair go adult-contemporary — a move that further distanced her from her original indie-rock fanbase. Critical reception was mixed, but most agreed that it was pretty dull.
‘Funstyle’ 2010, Rocket Science Records
Self-released on Phair’s website, “Funstyle” shocked those who were still paying attention. Long-time fans loved that she seemed to be taking musical risks again (she raps on a song called “Bollywood”), even if the results were sometimes cringeworthy. Of course many just flat-out hated it, too, but it’s an intriguing sign that we may not have heard the last of Liz Phair.
Liz Phair is at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Wednesday.