By David L. Coddon – for The North County Times
The San Diego Union Tribune, September 29, 2010
You think by any chance that Liz Phair, indie-rock’s original angry young woman, has mellowed in her 40s?
“I have an anti-authoritarian streak,” said Phair, 43, who performs Tuesday night at the Belly Up in Solana Beach. “Part of it I bring upon myself. Part of what songwriting is for me is railing against the status quo. I was railing against it then (in 1993, when Phair broke through with her girl-power manifesto “Exile in Guyville”), and I’m railing against it now.”
On her new album, “Funstyle,” Phair does more than just rail against the status quo. She bucks it. “Funstyle” (a double record that also includes her early-’90s “Girlysound” recordings) is available via her website, lizphair.com. Phair is a free agent, having parted ways with ATO Records, which signed her in 2008 and re-released “Exile in Guyville.” (Phair talked to the Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog in July about her departure from the ATO fold.) Her previous album, 2005’s “Somebody’s Miracle,” capped a run with Capitol Records.
“I’m not a big fan of the music business, per se. I feel like it’s riddled with gamblers and ne’er-do-wells,” she said.
Phair’s sentiments on the subject are clear enough on”Funstyle,” in particular on the track “Bollywood” (“Hey look, Liz, we see you as a commodity / We’ve been with you since Day One, and that’s an oddity”) and the album-closing “U Hate It,” which flippantly bids farewell at ATO.
Some critics, and perhaps even some of her longtime fans, may hate the new album, which incorporates electronic beeps on some tracks and also finds Phair rapping. Yes, rapping.
She’s typically unconcerned about the backlash.
“I’ve grown a very thick skin because of all the criticism over the years,” said Phair, whose mainstream-flirting 2003 self-titled album faced considerable scorn. “I feel like there’s a pack of hyenas behind me, waiting for me to tire. I can’t think why they would bother. I can’t relate to someone who would doggedly go after another person. I spend my time creating or hanging out with my son or cooking or whatever. I have a billion things to do, none of which includes chasing someone to try and bring them down.”
This isn’t a case of maverick rock-star paranoia. Phair is just being true to herself, which her most loyal fans expect.
“You have so many people cutting you down or telling you the way you are is wrong or bad or embarrassing. If you want to keep doing what you do, you have to understand your reasons. You have to square it away with yourself. I think that makes you a stronger person. Why I do what I do has to square with me first.”
While “Funstyle” might not be to every Liz Phair fan’s taste, the accompanying archival “Girlysound” tracks, which she said she recorded in her bedroom or at friends’ homes on a four-track machine, hearken back to Phair’s “Guyville” era —- in fact, even before.
“This kind of playfulness in songwriting is something I’ve had from the very beginning,” she said, “before I even made ‘Guyville.’I wanted to show where the roots of that style came from.”
Phair’s getting plenty of love from her disciples —- those who’ve embraced her career-long messages of empowerment, feminism and rebellion —- on her current small-venue tour. No matter. She still manages to tick people off, and she admitted to being a bit baffled by that.
“Why my intentions don’t end up coming through, I don’t know. That is a question for the ages, and I’ll probably go to my death wondering why my intentions are so misconstrued that they upset people.”
She’s prepared, though.
“If I had to stand in front of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, I’d say I lived my life in such a way that I created just a tiny bit more room for women to be the way they want to be.”