Search Menu

Hurry Up And Wait

Liz Phair

All’s Phair

Dark Light

In the ’90s, fans have come to expect at least a two-year wait between albums from their favorite bands. Rickey Wright explores why some bands even lag beyond the industry standard.

When Matador Records pushed back the release date for Liz Phair’s forthcoming follow-up to her 1994 album Whip-smart, it set off a buzz of speculation. Rumors flew that in the wake of collaborator Jim Ellison’s suicide, Phair had decided to take her music in a countryish direction. More intriguing was talk that Phair had submitted completed versions of her third full-length album to Matador and they had been rejected — twice.

Matador spokesman Nils Bernstein denies that story, emphasizing the company’s willingness to wait until Phair is satisfied with her LP. “It can’t be true; there hasn’t been a completed album for anybody to listen to. But she has kind of rejected her own record,” he says of Phair’s decision to continue recording past deadlines. “People assume that when she takes her time, it’s: ‘A-ha! Matador signed a deal with Capitol, and now [the label’s] telling her she doesn’t have a single!”

Bernstein offers a theory as to why Phair, who gave birth to a son in 1996, has taken three years between albums. “The degree to which bands censor themselves varies wildly,” he says. “People have so much invested in her record as part of their coming ‘year in rock’ that naturally they’re going to wonder what’s going on. If you were in her position, you would censor yourself because you’re thinking about how it will go over. I mean, indie rock aside, Liz has to speak for all women, at least those who don’t align themselves with the Lilith thing. I don’t want to speak for her, but I would think she finds that really hard.”

Phair’s situation is unique, even for an industry in which a two-year lag between albums has become standard, but she’s hardly the only auteur keeping fans waiting. She isn’t even the most visible example of delay. My Bloody Valentine, for instance, who helped redefine the electric guitar’s role in the ’90s with Loveless, haven’t issued an album since that 1991 screed, although a follow-up is perenially imminent. Any number of factors can contribute to the delay of a record, points out former Geffen A&R executive Mark Kates, who’s worked with Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Hole and other acts. Pressure can be especially heavy for a group early in their career — say, after a gold or platinum debut.

By Rickey Wright
Alternative Press, January 1998

Related Posts