Category: Certain Songs

Certain Songs #940: Liz Phair – “Uncle Alvarez”

Album: whitechocolatespaceegg
Year: 1998

After failing to catch lightning in a bottle a second time with 1994’s good-not-great Whip-Smart, Liz Phair changed direction completely with 1998’s transitory whitechocolatespaceegg, which abandoned the low-fi sound of her first two records for a more slick, Scott Litt-produced approach.

This sounds like I’m winding up towards an insult, but actually, quite the opposite. I really liked whitechocolatespaceegg. It was the closest thing to traditional singer-songwriter album she’s ever produced, but retained some of the musical weirdness that marked her first two albums. The lyrical themes expanded beyond love and sex, and she was writing about characters and situations that clearly weren’t autobiographical.

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Certain Songs #939: Liz Phair – “Divorce Song”

Album: Exile in Guyville
Year: 1993

Oh god, “Divorce Song.” My favorite song from Exile in Guyville, and my favorite Liz Phair song.

We’ve all been there, right? One last road trip in a relationship that was clearly already a dead shark, maybe taken as a last-ditch effort at reconnecting, maybe taken because of an obligation larger than the relationship, maybe taken because you didn’t know how not to take it.

And it was a fucking disaster.

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Certain Songs #938: Liz Phair – “Fuck and Run”

Album: Exile in Guyville
Year: 1993

Of course, part of the thing surrounding Exile in Guyville was Liz Phair’s utterly fearless openness about her sexuality. It wasn’t unprecedented, of course — Chrissie Hynde, among others wrote with the same fearlessness — but her explicitness did feel fresh.

And so you had a song like “Fuck and Run,” which not only had an explicit title — “fuck” is right there in the title, as a-verb-not-an-adjective — but was right there with Liz the morning after a one-night stand.

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Certain Songs #937: Liz Phair – “Explain it to Me”

Album: Exile in Guyville
Year: 1993

Of course, if Exile in Guyville had been nothing but straight forward indie pop songs, it wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting.

Instead, Liz devoted a significant chunk of the album’s running time to more experimental or atmospheric songs, featuring offbeat sounds, slow tempos and, in the case of “Dance of the Seven Veils” and “Flower,” some of her most explicit lyrics, as well. My favorite of all of these was the sad, shimmering “Explain it to Me.”

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Certain Songs #936: Liz Phair – “Never Said”

Album: Exile in Guyville
Year: 1993

Ah, 1993. I’ve pointed out a few times how weird 1993 was, especially from the perspective of nearly a quarter-century later, when artists as seemingly uncommercial as Lemonheads, Belly and The Breeders could have at least minor hits on MTV.

So it wasn’t all that surprising to see the video for Liz Phair’s “Never Said,” on MTV. In fact, given all of the hubbub surround Exile in Guyville, it seemed almost natural.

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