Liz Phair Continues To Do Things Her Way

(amazon.com)
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Originally published in AOL City’s Best, late 2010

Anyone who has followed Liz Phair in the last seven years has seen her career shift from an indie alternative rocker to a mainstream pop artist—a direction that had caused considerable debate amongst critics and fans who adored her 1993 debut rock album Exile in Guyville. In fact Phair’s latest record, Funstyle, had drawn buzz in the media this past summer, especially for its song, “Bollywood,” which finds her rapping.

Yet for the fans who are keener towards her music from the Guyville era than her most recent music will have good reason to check out her upcoming show at the Bowery Ballroom on Monday. As Phair tells City’s Best, the set list will cover the whole range of her career, particularly more of the classic Guyville.

“The new album only gets two or three songs, at the most. And, like, all the records, I was very careful. I asked my fan sites to take a poll if they wanted. I learned a bunch of the stuff that they wanted and I am drawing from every single record–heavy on the Guyville. I mean, it’s just everything. I love that finally I have enough records that my whole set can rock and be good.”

The music on Funstyle resulted in Phair departing from her previous management and record companies. Phair says that it bugged her when she was expected to make another Guyville-like album. “This material [Funstyle] was about to be locked away forever, never to be heard and I just couldn’t have that. I given it as much time as I could to try to see it their way or to agree with them and I just didn’t.”

Funstyle is an eclectic-sounding album—in addition to the hip-hop styled Bollywood, there is also some funk and pop songs. Two tracks, “Smoke” and “U Hate It,” poke fun at her situation with the music industry. “Some part of me finds it very funny and silly how intense people get about music,” she says. “I can think lot of things to get worked up about: government, poverty, sex slave trade. But music? There are little shticks but they’re at another level, they’re true to what emotionally I go through and listening to.”

But there are also songs that evoke some of Phair’s early sound such as the personal “You Should Know Me.” “I am very proud of that,” she says about that track. “It’s talking about how I never fit in anywhere, even in my relationships, you know? I never found the lasting love that worked out for me because I don’t ever fit nicely the way I am supposed to. And a lot of people don’t either. They just fake it and I’m allergic to fake.”

Asked if it’s confining to having her latest music be defined by Exile in Guyville, Phair admits that it used to be that way until she worked on the documentary that coincided with that album’s recent 15th anniversary. “I felt like suddenly we’re all sharing something that was just unique and just happened for a lot of different reasons. And now it feels much, much better. You can tell me it’s my best record until the cows come home, and I’ll be like, ‘I know. It’s good, isn’t it?’ It’s cool now.”

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