Phairly Good, For Pop
Normally, musicians don’t wait until their fourth album for a self-titled release, which implies that Liz Phair may be starting anew. And Liz Phair is definitely not the ball-busting, girls-can-do-it-too, “bitch-rock” that she became associated with after her debut Exile In Guyville. It is pop in the most contemporary sense, including the edgy radio-friendly guitar riffs, filtered electronic vocals, and predictable “Rock me all night” lyrics. With her boi-ish songs, Phair has created an album that could sit on the shelf along with many of the other soon-to-be dated recent pop releases.The similarity to mainstream music is not surprising considering L.A. production team The Matrix helped produce it, also responsible for songs for Avril Lavigne, the Backstreet Boys, and Jewel’s recent album which also took a pop turn. “Why Can’t I” sounds like she stepped into Lavigne’s t-shirt and necktie. In songs like “Little Digger” and “Firewalker,” her Mannish voice (Aimee Mann, that is) shines through. So what happened to Liz Phair? That raw, vibrant magic she had has seemingly been toned down, trading in an honest rawness for a more scripted sound. But just because it’s pop doesn’t mean it’s bad, and we must remind ourselves that the question is not whether she was right in going pop, but whether the album is good…and frankly it’s ok, if you like that sort of thing.