Much print has been spilled in the most recent flurry of Liz Phair news, and a lot of it just clearly misses the fucking point.
As an artistic piece I still think Exile In Guyville is an amazing piece of emotional honesty. I could care less what motivated Liz Phair to write the songs, and from what I can tell she was an artist first and foremost, but she wanted validation from Nash Kato and that crew, so I think that supplied the drive to actually get her stuff released. I think the “potty mouth / slutty blowjob queen / Exile On Mainstreet / priveleged rich kid going bohemian” thing is an angle that lazy journalists employed then, and still employ. One watch of the Guyville Redux DVD that comes with the reissue is paints a much better representation of the indie scene at the time — Chicago in particular — and the way she actually fit into things at the time.
But I think she was/is an artist with a limited well from which to draw. There’s a reason the good songs on later discs were mostly reworkings of stuff from the Girlysound tapes. I think she hit upon a bright burst of inspiration at a certain point in her life and after that was gone she didn’t have anything else unique to say.
Another journalist and I were having an argument recently over whether or not Guyville is even a feminist work. I argued it wasn’t philosophically, but understood that since it empowered so many women some folks just lump it in as a “feminist work.” And I think that’s the most important thing, and one that gets severely overlooked since almost everyone that’s ever written about the album is male, and they totally fucking miss this point just about every single time, but when that disc came out there were a LOT of girls that were suddenly like, OH my GOD, I think those same things too. And it’s O.K. I’m not alone!”
Who cares if Phair never writes another decent song, or that her career nowadays is one naked grab for attention after another? That’s her business, and I don’t hold it against her one whit, and I think it’s idiotic for people to hate on her for trying to make a career within today’s totally fucked up music industry. What matters is that, once upon a time, she created a piece of art that gave a lot of people courage by shouting universal truths previously held behind closed doors. For that Liz Phair will always have my respect.