ENDING A YEAR’S WORTH of scheduling postponements from her label, frustrated anticipation from her fans and rampant speculation from the music press, Liz Phair is finally ready to release whitechocolatespaceegg, the full-length follow-up to 1994’s gold-certified Whip-Smart. (Matador released Juvenilia, an eight-song EP, in 1995.) The 16-track CD is due August 11 on Matador/Capitol.
Guesting on one track (“Fantasize”) are R.E.M.‘s Mike Mills (bass) and Peter Buck (guitar), along with their former bandmate Bill Bery (bongos). Also appearing on the tune is Young Fresh Fellow/Minus 5‘er Scott McCaughey (guitar). The songs on the album were variously produced by Brad Wood (who helmed both Phair’s 1993 debut, Exile in Guyville, and Whip-Smart), Jason Chasko, noted R.E.M. boardsman Scott Litt — all of whom play several instruments throughout — and Phair herself. Most of the recording for whitechocolatespaceeg was done at studios in the singer-songwriter’s Windy City stomping ground (Chicago Trax, Velvet Shirt, Chicago Recording Co.).
The complete track list, in sequence: “White Chocolate Space Egg”, “Big Tall Man”, “Perfect World”, “Johnny Feelgood”, “Polyester Bride”, “Love Is Nothing”, “Baby Got Going”, “Uncle Alvarez”, “Only Son”, “Go On Ahead”, “Headache”, “Ride”, “What Makes You Happy”, “Fantasize”, “Shitloads of Money” and “Girls’ Room”.
No doubt part of the reason for Phair’s overlong between-album hiatus had to do with the birth of her son, James Nicholas, in December 1996. As for the rumors that the indie-rock queen’s initial offering to her label was rejected, Matador co-president Gerard Cosloy demurs. “Matador has never rejected an album by one of its artists,” he tells ICE. “Liz gave us several opportunities to hear early demos, but these were always works in progress. There are a number of conspiracy theorists who would like to believe that Matador and/or Capitol have some hand in the creative process, but nothing could be further from the truth.”
“There [were] lots of reasons for the delay,” Cosloy continues, lightheartedly. “A) Liz had a baby; recording while in labor is very difficult. B) At various times during the project, Liz decided that certain songs could be improved on. C) Due to scheduling conflicts, Scott Litt couldn’t finish the project, hence Liz took over herself, with additional help from Brad Wood and Tom Lord-Alge [who mixed much of the disc]. And, D) We wanted to give Hole every chance to get their new album out first!”
According to Cosloy, Phair fanatics should expect the “production to be as powerful as the lyrics. I think [her fans] will be pleasantly surprised at how huge it sounds.” He intimates that the album explores a wider range of styles and sounds. Indeed, in August of last year, Phair told Spin that she was going for a “more dreamy, weird sound quality.”
At press time, the final artwork was not finished, but Cosloy says that Phair did a photoshoot in the Nevada desert, one of whose images may wind up on the front cover. And in touring news, the notoriously stage-shy songstress “will be doing a number of dates on the main stage of this summer’s Lilith Fair tour, followed by a headline tour of the U.S. and Canada in September.”
ICE, July 1998