By Kevin Hopper
Albuquerque Journal, November 21, 2003
Punk rock — the mantra, not the music — is the very noble idea that one individual does and says what he or she pleases without regard to popular opinion or fear of standing out or being chastised for his or her beliefs.
If this is true, then Liz Phair is very much punk rock.
“I don’t like the fear. I don’t like it in myself,” Phair said in a recent telephone interview on a tour stop in Kansas City, MO. “If more indie bands could work with business enough to get on the radio, that’s the only way radio is going to play things that you or I would want to hear. They’re never going to come court us, ever. Because they don’t care. So I say storm the castle.”
Phair was speaking of her fourth and latest record, titled simply Liz Phair. Released on Capitol Records this summer, Phair has received numerous critical remarks accusing her of going pop. But as she explained in a very unapologetic and terse manner, the record business is about becoming popular. And now that she understands both the business and her artistic vision, she’s ready to take on the world.
“Every single band, I don’t care how indie you are, has these dreams and hopes that somehow, some way, by some fluke this thing will become popular,” Phair said. “But then when it actually comes to making that dream come true, people cave. They say things like, ‘I can’t take it’ or ‘I won’t go that far’. And all I’m doing is going as far as I can take. And I can take a lot apparently. So I’m going to go as far as I can take it.”
Phair’s story has been highly publicized. After her groundbreaking debut, Exile in Guyville, broke convention in the female songwriter category by explicitly stating what was really on her mind (namely, sex), the audience that she captured (college radio DJs and music critics like myself) shunned her next two records for not being “indie” enough.
And to be fair, neither Whip Smart nor whitechocolatespaceegg held that same immediacy that Exile did. What those two records did do, however, was help Phair accomplish what it was she was trying to do all along — reach people.
“(Indie rock) is a very good breeding ground for young artists who are trying to develop their vision. It gives people time,” Phair said. “But once I knew my vision, I was in my mid-30s. If there was ever a time I was ready it was now and I just wanted to do it.”
“I fashioned (this record) more to be something that would make the label be really psyched to bring it to people. I wanted to have a record that I felt brought emotional things and things you need to think about in a nice package. The kind of records that I like.”