I got Liz Phair's self-titled CD from 2003 recently, and it's been getting a lot of play on my iPod. Liz Phair was a radical departure from her earlier indie rock albums Exile in Guyville and Whip-Smart, both in terms of vocal style and musical style as well.
The earlier albums from 1993 and 1994 were of a piece, featuring lo-fi garage arrangements and flat deadpan vocals. The songs were angsty and not particularly radio-friendly: They didn't follow standard songwriting formulae, and there were all of those sexually explicit lyrics...
Flash forward to 2003. Liz was 36 years old instead of 26, and the songs were less unhappy, more formulaic and more pop-oriented and radio-friendly. The flat vocals are gone, and she actually has a melodic voice. Well, there is still some of that sexually explicit stuff, especially on the song "H.W.C." in which she praises a "secret beauty routine," but most of the rest of the CD could make it on the airwaves.
The record company had her collaborate with the hit-making team The Matrix on four of the tracks. The critical reaction was mixed: Some called it Exile in Avril Lavigneville, because of the pop style, but as I read in another review, you can't expect people to stand still; time passes and people change. It is what it is, which is a pretty darned good pop album. I especially liked "Extraordinary" and "Why Can't I?" which were two of the tracks with The Matrix. Another good, if quirky song, is "Favorite," in which she compares her comfortable relationship to her lover with her favorite underwear. And "H.W.C.," while it would work well on an adult film soundtrack, is also a very catchy song, if the lyrics don't put you off.
Here's the video for "Why Can't I?" (which is on the enhanced CD) off YouTube:
And that controversial "H.W.C." song? Here's an unofficial music video of the song with a photo montage of Liz Phair:
WARNING! WARNING! EXPLICIT LYRICS!
(Don't say I didn't warn you!)
(If you watched it, you have to admit that it's a catchy tune)