Still Phairing well 25 years later
Ever wonder how many songs can find themselves into an album? Thought 22 was a lot? Ha! Think again. Liz Phair’s Girly-Sound to Guyville: The 25th Anniversary is a 56-track, 3.5 hour endeavor that puts her and no one else on display. If there’s anything that this massive project/compilation proves, it’s that there definitely can be too much of a good thing.
Attempting to listen to this entire box set in one sitting is not a good idea, trust the reviewer on this one. What could thrive as a well-received break from active drum grooves and dense basslines instead walks awfully near the edge of becoming, sadly, monotonous. Some artists just aren’t meant to be taken in all at once. That aside, Phair’s lyrics are strong as they’ve ever been.
She ought to work with the police since she can describe just about anyone with shocking accuracy, as she does in nearly half the tracks from the original Exile in Guyville portion of the album (the opening segment of the box set). Her friends have to be careful what they say around her because this girl can write a mean diss track (or several). One of her lyrically stronger choruses is in “Hello Sailor,” in which she sings “That I’m a little despot, short and stout/Here is my handgun, here is my crowd control/When you tick me off then the bullets fly out” — enviable creativity at the pen.
Her cautionary tale in “Dance of the Seven Veils” drops a chill down the spine, making any person, insecure or not, worry about the (supposedly) merciless music industry. “Fuck and Run” sheds light on her jagged history, and “Mesmerizing” is perhaps the catchiest of the collection. The glitter of emotions that cover “Shatter” grant it everlasting life in many music listener’s libraries.
However, the mixing (or lack thereof) on a majority of the tunes in the middle of this compilation favor her guitar playing over her voice, and if a full-ensemble is what the ears seek, perhaps search elsewhere. These songs are all just Phair and the guitar, or occasionally the piano, like in the closer, “Chopsticks” (which uses the chord progression of the infamous piano ditty of the same name).
Phair would make for a perfect story-telling grandmother, as every one of these songs proves. Tastefully repeating the right lines, and not stressing over the need to rhyme. Give this box set a spin on a summer day, but maybe not all in one sitting. The importance of her debut album back in the ‘90s will never be forgotten.