Category: Liz Phair

Liz Phair on new record: 'I'm going to get this one right'

Liz Phair
Liz Phair is working on a new album, and last week in Los Angeles she shared her dreams for it. "My fantasy is that this comes out on Matador," she says, referring to the famed independent label that released her first three albums, including the career-defining 1993 debut "Exile in Guyville."

She's going to have to record it before she worries about finding a label, but Phair hopes to be on the road this fall, either previewing or supporting what she says will be a rock-focused album. 

Phair was last heard on 2010's "Funstyle," an Internet release that placed sarcasm and experimentation ahead of songcraft. It was a wild left turn from her last major-label effort, 2005's "Somebody's Miracle," an album that was drenched in studio gloss and attempted to force Top-40 hooks into Phair's loose, conversational approach. Phair resurfaces next week with an end-credits song to the DreamWorks/Touchstone film "People Like Us," a song that is a collaboration with Bollywood composer A.R. Rahman.

Pop & Hiss will have more on the partnership in coming days, but speaking on the afternoon of the film's premiere Phair promised that fans wouldn't have to wait too long for a new album. Unlike the off-the-cuff "Funstyle," songs that Phair said cost her management and label deals, the new record will be a more cohesive affair.

"I’m working on a proper rock record, a good, old-school rock record. Finally. I had a lot of issues to work out," Phair says, laughing and slinking into her chair.

"But this record has been a very beautiful experience. I’m not going to screw up the production, either. I’m going to get this one right. I have my head screwed on right. I haven’t been this way in a long time."

She credits her performance in 2010 at the Matador's 21st anniversary concerts in Las Vegas as reinvigorating her approach to music. Phair shared a stage with the likes of Guided by Voices and Yo La Tengo, and even dueted with Ted Leo.

"Oh, my God, what a godsend that was," she says of the experience. "What an amazing homecoming. That ended a whole cycle of pain. It was a rebirth. I remembered who I once was, and they remembered not to hate me so much. They remembered that it’s not all that ferociously awful, what I have done."

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Liz Phair's 'Funstyle': Interesting, even to hate

LIZ_PHAIR_FUNSTYLEAnd the conversation went something like this:

OMG LIZ PHAIR POSTED A NEW ALBUM ON HER WEBSITE.

I heard it's terrible.

You can download it for $5.99.

It's terrible, It's all over Twitter and you should read the comments on Jezebel! I hear she raps on the song that's streaming on her website.

It's her first new album in five years. Yeah, that "Bollywood" song definitely grates a bit on first listen -- is she making fun of M.I.A.? (Or maybe she's sending the younger critical it-girl a warning about what happens after you've been branded a sell-out,) But that's just one track. The album has 11.

I'm sure it's terrible. I hate Liz Phair! She made me fall in love with her when I was a kid, and then she turned out to be nothing like what I wanted her to be!  Hey, somebody on the Internet said the best line is about her throwing up and the second best one rhyme's "genius" with "peen-yus." She is SO dumb.

I think I'll go take a walk and listen to it.

Tell me how it is. It's going to be terrible.

Sigh......

Hating Liz Phair is fun, almost as fun as turning the pop-fashion tide away from M.I.A. by doubting her motives behind having a child with a wealthy man, or dissecting the ways Sarah McLachlan was stupid in her attempts to revive the Lilith Fair. This rough summer for feminist pop musicians doesn't strictly reflect sexism; often, women are the most vocal in expressing wrath toward role models who suddenly seem all too human. For Phair, who enjoyed a modest revival when ATO Records reissued her groundbreaking debut album, "Exile in Guyville," in 2008, being the object of others' effervescent scorn has become old hat: every album she made after that one sent more of her fans into attack mode. The fact she called this new one "Funstyle" -- as well as some of the music included in the package -- indicates that she now means to make this hating game her own.

It's a little sad that Phair has grown so defensive that she's included not one, but three joke songs in which she depicts herself as exactly the kind of desperate would-be Hollywood A-lister her former devotees fear she's become. (There's a fourth that makes fun of self-help gurus and the Starbucks-haunting moms who love them.) Dan Weiss at the Village Voice music blog mentions Frank Zappa in reference to these cuts, and he's right, though I hear more Laurie Anderson: the voice manipulation, the self-parodic white-girl funkiness, and, most of all, the lovingly self-mocking superego that floats over all of it suggests that Phair, like Anderson, knows she's part of the very systems she mocks.

I thought of another longtime master of satire while listening to Phair's funny stuff: Dr. Demento, the great radio clown who recently ended his long run on the airwaves. Her broad, homemade humor attains a kind of warmth that counteracts the bitterness beneath it.Her earthiness, always one of her best qualities, shines through on these tracks. Yes, they're unexpected, but they're totally accessible.

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Liz Phair's second career: novelist?

Lizphair082

We caught up with Liz Phair earlier this week after the second show of her sold-out performance of "Exile in Guyville" at the Troubadour (read Ann Powers' take on Phair's re-issue of "Exile" here), and asked her to confirm a sneaking suspicion we had that she might be writing something other than songs these days.   

"I thought to myself, what can I do better than other people?" she postulated post-encore from the side of the stage after greeting friends and fans. "I'm not the best singer," she demurred, adding that "I'm not the best songwriter, either. But I do tell stories well."

Phair's publicist confirmed Tuesday that the Connecticut-born singer has a literary agent, but Phair, currently a South Bay resident, was adamant on Monday that nothing is currently in the works, so don't expect to see anything at your local Barnes & Noble just yet. The songstress did say that she was not interested in pursuing a memoir, a la Juliana Hatfield's just-released offering "When I Grow Up" or Chris Connelly's "Concrete, Bulletproof, Invisible and Fried," but rather, a work of fiction.

Phair, who penned a book review of Dean Wareham's "Black Postcards: A Rock & Roll Romance" earlier this year for the New York Times, clearly has a talent for sketching out characters (listening to "Exile in Guyville" is akin to reading a novel, with memorable dialogue and a richly drawn cast), and it's not a huge stretch to imagine her writing a contemporary novel. Maybe we'll see Phair's literary debut in the fourth quarter of 2010?

-- Charlie Amter

Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

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