The Exile Of Guyville Has DisappearedOctober 26, 2011 No Comments
While some baby boomers idealize the lie that was the 1950′s, when consumerism was the key to eternal happiness and the nuclear family was still something to believe in, I idealize a slice of time from the 1990s — a time that was influenced by the awkward innocence of the John Hughes films of the 80s, but represented youth culture in a new, dynamic light; when riot grrls made cut n’ paste ‘zines about revolutionizing feminism, and authentic bands had not yet been sucked into the machine. Before Cobain blew his brains out, but after Vanilla Ice’s Cool As Ice; before Billy Ray Cyrus pimped out his hell spawn , but after he had that awful hit song. And maybe my idealization of that flashbulb moment from the 90s is a lie, as well, or maybe the popular figures of that time were too high on heroin to wear superficial facades, or to pretend they did not poop. But I’m okay with that. As long as I have a lie to believe in, I am happy.
It is the women of this time who I most identify with: their androgynous spirits, their unapologetic attitudes, their grit, their humour. But when I reached the age when I was old enough to join the club, the club had dispersed. I still find myself seeking out my lost heroes, wondering if they gave up, or if the mainstream gave up on them — cycled them out for a new fad to sell.
Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville is like my lady-bible, and if I ever have a daughter, and I am enough of a self righteous asshole to delete her pop tart, robot mp3s. If she screams f-bombs at me (which she undoubtedly will because she will carry my lineage), I will assure her with great sensitivity that someday she will thank me.
“Come sit with mom and let’s listen to some Liz Phair. I’ll put on Fuck and Run and we can talk about your school day.”
I don’t want to know what happened to Liz Phair after her Whitechocolatespaceegg album. And I mean that in the literal sense. I’ve only heard bits and pieces of her work following that album, which I found to be disappointing, and I’ve read that her latest album, Funstyle, which she released independently via her website in July of 2010, is shit. Even though I hate to blindly latch on to other people’s opinions about things I don’t know anything about, I am scared to listen to this album, and not only because of the CD cover.
Liz Phair isn’t unique in her musical transformation. Many artists lose their audiences along the way, and sometimes they gain new ones. Sometimes record companies and profitability play a role, and sometimes it’s simply chalked up to the metamorphosis of the artist. I can understand how frustrating it might be for an artist to feel shunned for artistic exploration. You can’t possibly do the same routine, over and over again, for decades, and still feel inspired by what you’re doing. It’s not uncommon for successful artists to complain about feeling “boxed in,” like type casted actors who get pigeon holed into repeating the same role.
On the other hand, I listen to a diverse selection of musical styles, from various eras, and I don’t necessary expect artists like Liz Phair to mirror the ingenuity of Exile in Guyville or to reproduce another Whip-Smart. I am supportive of artists taking a new direction, as long as the direction tingles my soul in some way. I still dig Nina Gordon’s music, even if it sounds nothing like Veruca Salt’s American Thighs. The thing with a lot of these artists is that although they may take us in a new direction, that new direction often resembles Top 40 dribble, and I think that’s what makes serious music fans feel cheated.
The heartbreak of Liz Phair fans has been well documented on the Internet with their collective “What happened to her?!” whine, but no one seems to have any legitimate explanations. Did Liz, in fact, sell out? Was she hard up for money? Did the record industry chew her up and spit her back out again? What’s Liz’s story?
Shortly after offering her album, Funstyle, for download, Liz Phair posted a note to her fans:
- How To Like It. You were never supposed to hear these songs. These songs lost me my management, my record deal and a lot of nights of sleep. Yes, I rapped one of them. Im as surprised as you are. But here is the thing you need to know about these songs and the ones coming next: These are all me. Love them, or hate them, but dont mistake them for anything other than an entirely personal, un-tethered-from-the-machine, free for all view of the world, refracted through my own crazy lens. This is my journey. Ill keep sending you postcards. -Liz
Like it or not, maybe we should overcome our denial and trust Liz Phair when she says that “this is her journey.” It pains me to say it, but it seems that Liz and I are no longer at the same place in our lives.
It’s nothing personal, Liz. I will always love you.
No, really. You will always be my “blow job queen.”
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