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Liz’s mojo is still lost somewhere

Liz Phair: Is her new album a return to form?

Playing Against Type

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“Somebody’s Miracle” is like a blurry portrait of the former singer.

By Ce Skidmore
The Post-Star, October 13, 2005

I fell in love with Liz Phair years ago because she was an indie rock goddess. She was an artist of blunt language and snarling electric guitar. She had a very distinct penchant for masking lyrics that read like a kick in the pants with super-sweet, ultra-feminine melodies. Liz was a woman who could grab her audience by the throat and sing them lullabies.

Let me stress the past tense, Liz Phair was that woman.

But then the illustrious Ms. Phair reinvented herself with the self-titled album in 2003 that was pure 21st-century pop. Gag, gag and more gag. That album’s “Why Can’t I?” was like the theme song for the Lindsay Lohan generation. Somewhere there was a disturbance in the force that even Master Yoda could not quell.

Now, foremost, you can’t go disco in your late 30s. It’s a rule. Look at Jon Bon Jovi. His latest record makes me wish that New Jersey would secede from the union. Second of all, unless you’re the Beatles, you cannot release your self-titled album in the middle of your career. You’re not fooling anyone. We all know that it’s just a sneaky ploy to reach a new demographic under the guise of being a new artist. For shame! Take your musical mid-life crisis elsewhere.

Flash forward two years and here we are with yet another shade of Phair. “Somebody’s Miracle” is like a blurry portrait of the former singer. It has all the potential of Phair’s earlier work, but it’s still too clean. The album is like a dead-man’s float on the surface of pop music.

“Table for One” less out a little of the familiar Phair flair. It’s a ballad about a woman’s struggle with the very average facets of her day and her newfound freedom. Perhaps it is an autobiographical commentary on the singer’s recent divorce. Either way, it’s a comforting reminder that the old Liz is in there somewhere.

“Stars and Planets” is almost good enough to be a track from 1998’s “Whitechocolatespaceegg,” with its chugging, high-gain melody. Phair’s ability to find rhythm is not just the music but the words themselves is reminiscent of the style that made her famous.

But don’t get too comfortable. Tracks like “Everything to Me” and “Lost Tonight” have Phair sounding like someone beat her with the Sheryl Crow stick. Thankfully, they’re a bit more subdued than the teenybopper play list from her last effort but still not the Liz Phair we know and love.

All in all, the album lacks fuzz. It lacks the gutsy, in-your-face, indie edge. Maybe we’re supposed to roll with it and chalk it up to musical evolution. Or maybe she’s just forgotten how to rock in the free world. Either way, I miss the Liz that made me want to be a rock star.

If you dig “Somebody’s Miracle,” check out: Listen, if you dig “Somebody’s Miracle,” there’s no hope for you. Do yourself a favor and check Liz Phair’s earlier work — “Exile in Guyville,” “Whitechocolatespaceegg,” “Whip-Smart” and “Juvenilia.” That’s the real Liz. Accept no substitutions.

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