Friday, October 29, 2010

Liz Phair Dazzles And Frazzles With Funstyle

Liz Phair"You were never supposed to hear these songs. These songs lost me my management, my record deal and a lot of nights of sleep." — Liz Phair

So begins the introduction from Liz Phair on her Facebook page before inviting people to love them or hate them. She doesn't care so much. They are all her. So did almost everything she has produced over the years. Sometimes it's better not to understand it, especially as that message is being pushed harder than the songs.

Like many people, I was first introduced to Phair's music via her two most brilliant works, Exile in Guyville and Whip-Smart. There was plenty to like on the offbeat Whitechocolatespaceegg too. Yet another album nearly cost her a contract, with previously supportive Matador Records rejecting the album as produced. It was nothing new.

"Liz Phair is Rickie Lee Jones (more talked about than heard, a persona completely unrooted in substance, and a fucking chore to listen to)..." — Steve Albini, Evanston, 1994, referring to Exile

She then went on to piss some people off with her self-titled album, Liz Phair, and Somebody's Miracle too. Capitol Records, which produced those Matrixized fanbase crushers (the stuff the media loved), was unwilling to release the self-titled album as submitted. So why should this year be any different? Capitol Records is gone. ATO is gone. Her management is gone.

Funstyle Is Polarizing And Paralyzing At The Same Time.

Phair wants to produce music. And she wants to produce music the way she wants to produce it. This time around, there are plenty of experimental tracks and not much to hold it together as an album.

And even before listening to anything, the person who introduced me to Liz Phair quipped, lately, she wants to like Liz Phair more than she likes Liz Phair. She's not alone. Many fans miss this...

You won't find any of it on Funstyle. In fact, you'd be better off digging up That Dog to hear the best music Phair never made. What you will find instead is a musical freeform self-styled solo orgasm, which makes it beautiful at moments and ugly at others. It's brazen, with no rules and the lights on.

The best of it includes superimposed melodies and conflicted arrangements on You Should Know Me; and the hints of where she came from tucked inside And He Slayed Me (maybe the best track). Those are followed up with the lo-fi Bang! Bang!, the metaphoric Oh, Bangladesh, and the possible Capitol Records dig, Satisfied.

That's it. But those five also work in a fashion that the last track, U Hate It, sums up nicely. U Hate It is the track that has most critics buzzing. They say it's about the industry (and quietly about them). You tell me. You don't have to listen to it; the dubs overpowering the music are written in full right here.

U Hate It is the fallback commentary because most seem lost in wanting to hate it, loving that they hate it, and being afraid to hate it. This is not so new from Phair; at least not to anyone who heard Batmobile.

For everything wrong with the five songs listed, there is also something cool about music for people quietly harboring angst and wanting to play against the grain. The rest? Well, Miss September is boring and the remainder rap-blues-reggae infused stylings can be chalked up to the ugliness I mentioned earlier. And understanding that, I don't love or hate it. I accept it.

Liz Phair Funstyle Plays On A 4.5 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Funstyle is what it is. It's a transparent transitional work from an artist who never cared much for people talking about how they "know" her based on the songs she belts out. It also seems to be likely why she says the album best represents her. There is more to Phair than a single stroke across the canvas of a career. She has stuff we might hate inside her. Don't we all.

Funstyle by Liz Phair is on iTunes. You can also find Funstyle on Amazon.
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