By Wendy Kale
Colorado Daily, July 24, 2003
Just ask singer/songwriter Liz Phair. The performer just launched her latest CD “Liz Phair”, an album that has the parental advisory blazed across its cover. Sure, there’s some controversy over the singer’s R-rated lyrics, but this is Phair’s most radio-friendly record to date.
Phair made her indie rock debut ten years ago with her critically acclaimed record “Exile in Guyville”. Although her career has always flirted with major radio play, the singer’s music has stayed shy of mainstream rock. That’s all changed with “Liz Phair”, a CD that’s more calculated to invite a broader range of fans into the singer’s fold.
“I grew up listening to the radio,” said Phair. “I always loved driving down the highway and switching stations. It was almost like having my own radio library. I always though it would be great to have one of those songs that people found while switching the dials – you know the kind of songs that will provide a memory for someone’s life.”
To create that kind of record, Phair knew that she was going to have to come up with the kind of creative team that could deliver the goods. The musician called on singer/producer Michael Penn, plus studio wizard R. Walt Vincent, and the trio formed The Matrix. The mission of the trio was to give Phair’s music an infectious pop sound that could encompass lush ballads as well as power-chord rockers.
“I always hate to play by the rules; I don’t like being told how to dress, what to say, or what to play. But I think that sometimes people take my songs too seriously, I just like to play with the words to loosen people up and get them to laugh and look at themselves. So, on this record I wanted to have songs that would make people think and feel,” said Phair.
The singer admits that a bad break-up inspired her to write the new tunes, but added that The Matrix production team really translated those feelings to the record. Penn, Vincent, and Phair all picked different songs to produce, and the individualized touch gives “Liz Phair” a rich musical texture.
“It was a complicated project,” admitted Phair. “I always fight against being boxed into one category, so this record shows all sides of my music. There were a lot of songs that didn’t make the record, but I wanted to put the songs on that I could live with four years from now.”
Phair is selling some of the extra tunes as an EP on her Web site. The singer says she wasn’t expecting to have her career revived by this record and she’s interested in exploring new ways to get the music out and interact with her fans.
Phair plays the Paramount Wednesday with singer/songwriter Jason Mraz. For those uninitiated, Mraz is one of the fastest-rising singer/songwriters to come out of the coffeehouse scene. The musician has a cool take on music, as he fuses folk roots with poppier world beat grooves. It works, and his tunes are rising up the charts.