By John Adamian
Hardfort Courant, November 8, 2019
Liz Phair just released a new single, “Good Side,” about leaving a romantic partner, trying to wrap up a relationship without bad feelings and regrets, knowing when to call it quits, and moving on before things get ugly.
Phair has always been unsentimental and boldly candid, particularly about the ways that needy and insecure lovers can mess with each others’ minds. In an age when the subject of toxic masculinity has become something to discuss and diagnose in popular culture, Phair’s songs, particularly her classic eye-opening 1993 debut full-length “Exile In Guyville,” seem to have been written with clairvoyance, X-ray vision, or just unblinking clarity, in addition to their timeless hookiness. The particular way that she wrote about sex, desire and disappointment from a female perspective was basically unprecedented. She’s a master at charting out the gulf between people incapable of articulating their real feelings, longings and fears.
Though Phair was coming from the world of scrappy DIY indie rock, you could compare some of her surgical insights and smarts to Joni Mitchell. There aren’t that many great-great double LP studio albums in rock — OK the Beatles’ “White Album,” the Stone’s “Exile” (which Phair was riffing on), Zep’s “Physical Graffiti,” Husker Du’s “Zen Arcade,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk,” Hendrix’s “Electric Ladyland”; Phair’s record can stand right next to those. Her cutting sense of humor is a bonus and it’s another thing she’s got over most rock songwriters. Phair just published a memoir, “Horror Stories,” which is bound to offer a special look at the world of ‘90s rock.
Featured Image: Photograph by Amy Harris