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Liz Phair: Dirty Angel

The Bold Soprano

Checking In With Liz Phair

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Liz Phair’s naked confessions would have most listeners reeling — if it weren’t for that voice. Take “Flower”, in which she graphically describes how she’d like to turn a certain part of the male anatomy blue. Pretty raunch stuff, huh? Oh, but those vocals. As one fan rhapsodizes, “She sounds like an angel — a dirty one.” No surprise college students across the country have made her a heroine.

Phair was living at home when she recorded her first batch of songs, Girly Sounds, on a four-track in her childhood bedroom. The cassettes were circulated and eventually got her signed to the indie label Matador. With a three-thousand-dollar advance, she recorded her first album, Exile in Guyville.

Any up-and-coming female rocker who hasn’t been compared to [Alanis] Morisette will surely be likened to Phair. Still, what unites these women isn’t so much their style as their state of mind. Phair herself made this observation two years ago, shortly after the release of her second album, Whip-Smart. “I don’t think women artists are working off one another,” Phair told the New York Times. “I think they’re just working. If there’s a common thread, it’s our experience. Our experience is about borders, about where we can and can’t have access.”

Cosmopolitan, December 1996

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