Music

Happy Accidents

Relieving Your Liz Phair Anxieties

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Liz Phair
Wed August 17
Doug Fir Lounge
830 E Burnside

I know that this might come as an extremely difficult thing to come to terms with—to look back over the stretch of the last decade and realize that the very foundation you've built a healthy fraction of your indierock existence upon was never as sound as you thought it was—but trust me, it's for the best. So say it with me now: I've been lying to myself. Exile in Guyville was (gulp)... an accident.

In the 12 years since its release, Liz Phair's landmark debut record has maintained a surprisingly monolithic presence in the lives of those whom it initially enraptured—myself included. Considering that the vast majority of today's contemporary music critics were weaned from its rather succulent teat, it's no surprise that so much ink has been passionately lavished on Guyville—and continues to be, virtually anytime Phair stumbles back into the limelight. You see, Guyville—with its loose conceptualism, conflicted feminism, and surprisingly enduring production quality—is something of a perfect critic's record. Because of this, every subsequent release Phair has flung (the Guyville afterglow of Whip-Smart, the resoundingly mediocre whitechocolatespaceegg, and Liz Phair, perhaps the worst album of 2003) has been met with the sheer vitriol of critics, who—seizing yet another opportunity to write about Guyville—take great pleasure in charting the "Fall of Phair." All this just works to reinforce the misconception among her former fan base that—for a laundry list of reasons that include motherhood, marriage, divorce, age, money, etc.—Liz Phair has somehow "blown it." But I, for one, prefer to look at things in a slightly more positive light: Exile in Guyville was sort of a happy fluke.

I know it's crass oversimplification (and more than a little condescending) to suggest that Phair's debut was merely the result of a brief flirtation with talent, but it's a hell of a lot more pleasant to swallow than accepting that she dramatically tanked at 26. So for your sake, why not do what I do? Embrace Guyville as a happy accident—you know, like an unplanned pregnancy. Trust me, it'll feel better.

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