Apparently, Liz Phair has hired Avril Levine’s manager, producer, handler, hair stylist, or song writer, perhaps all of them. That is not a joke, nor are the results, which could generously be described as one of the most depressing falls from indie-grace ever. Phair has gone from creating one of the cleverest, most endearing debuts of Chicago history in her bedroom more than 10 years ago (Exile in Guyville) to becoming a cosmetic clone of Canada’s most annoying teenager. She’s self titled her new album, presumably to fool old fans into thinking she’s reached a moment of self-discovery and trick newcomers into thinking she is a totally new act. Unfortunately, the songs are spin-offs of so many unbelievably embarrassing sources that many will be clamoring for the cheeky pleasures of “Sk8er Dude”.
The record begins with a guitar riff straight out of the 311 playbook. That’s right, 311. Didn’t know 311 had a playbook? Phair did, and has it, along with Pink’s, Natalie Imbruglia’s, and Jewel’s. That’s right, Sarah McLaughlin, I mean Jewel. Things calm down after the first 5 seconds of loud guitars and settle into a generic, soft-rock groove of nondescript, female artists singing about things only the junior class could get excited about. That’s when it’s good. In the nauseating double-dip of “Favorite” and “Love Hate”, modern midi-beats are jettisoned for a glorious return to the synthesizers of Debbie Gibson. That’s right, Debbie Gibson. And during the big sendoff, “Good Love Never Dies,” a guitar lick John Karnes would be proud of finishes off each chorus (which incidentally compares love to “looking at the sun.”… ouch). And that’s right, John Karnes. That’s right, the studio guitarist for Richard Marx during the late 80’s.
For one brief moment, Liz tries to recapture the good old times with some sexual frankness and an acoustic guitar. But “Hot White Cum” is actually about the generative, life-giving powers of the titular liquid, not about a good money shot. For any fan of Liz Phair who still remembers opening the booklet of her debut CD and being immediately taken in by the candid photos accompanied by Dirty Harry quotes, wondering for weeks what that photo was of on the CD while listening to it, you will hope and pray that this is a gag. Maybe on her part, but not by me, which should be made quite clear by the following rating:
On an inverse scale of insufferable artists that Rolling Stone insists on calling the “Women of Rock”, where Janet Jackson is a 1 (not that bad) and Shakira is a 10 (really bad), Liz Phair is an Ashanti, the numerical equivalent of a 9.6 (it sucks).