New York City
I’m not sure if I can do this anymore. I’ve spent the last year defending you from all the naysayers who said you were a washed out, fucked-out sell out. Sure, your self-titled album is as smoothly produced as your sleek dye job. Yes, you’ve publicly humped your share of this nation’s guitars. But I rationalized it all by saying you were still punk rock; your feigned mainstream pandering was just your latest way of saying fuck you to all those indie-rock wimpster purists who publicly malign you but privately jerk off to your recent Stuff magazine spread.
When I heard you were coming to New York for a show on September 1st, I was so excited. Finally, I thought, my chance to embrace those secret feelings of sexual camaraderie with you. You always talked about sex in that way I could relate to: white suburban overeducated post-feminist horny. This concert would be my chance to sing the lyrics to “Flower” some place outside the confines of my shower.
When I typed your name into Ticketmaster’s website, all I came up with was this thing, this “Chicks with Attitude Tour,” sponsored by Maybelline. This must be some mistake, I thought. Liz would never sell out to this extent.But I silently defended you, thinking, the girl’s gotta eat. I saw the TLC “Behind the Music.” I know how little artists usually make from album sales. Who cares if a makeup company sponsors you, at least you’re still making music. And you’re touring with the Cardigans! They’re totally respectable, even if Nina Persson is gorgeous. I have no idea who Charlotte Martin or Katy Rose is, but I’m sure they’re innocuous enough. So I purchased the tickets, though I felt I lost about five dignity points by being involved with anything called “Chicks with Attitude.”
Then I went to Maybelline’s website, and my faith in you was almost completely destroyed. Apparently Maybelline is trying to launch an edgy new line of makeup, and you and Nina and Charlotte and Katy are its poster rockers. First there is the tacky-as-hell, radio-ready rock intro when you click on the “Chicks with Attitude” tour icon (the word “with” encapsulated by a pink guitar pic). Even that I could accept. But when I found the “Which Rocker Chick are You?” quiz, I nearly broke down. The quiz claims to tell you which of the four featured “Chicks” you most resembled. By question #3 (“Your favorite shoes are?”) I was ready to burn you in effigy, right down to your Favorite Underwear. Incidentally, I did complete the quiz, and in fact, you are the rocker chick I most nearly resemble. I think it’s because of my predilection for mini-skirts and my just-out-of-bed-chic haircut.
I went to see you anyway. I tried to forget the offending website with generous helpings of pre-show bourbon.The Cardigans put on a pretty great set, even by sober standards. Lo-fi, and Nina’s voice was as vulnerable and true as I remembered it on Gran Turismo. I was a little disappointed that the Cardigans didn’t play “Lovefool,” because of all my fond memories of Claire Danes circa 1994, but I understand that they didn’t want to pander to the masses any more than they already had. Sure, there was the giant “Chicks with Attitude” emblem projected behind them, but Nina’s backing Swedish rocker men with their shaggy haircuts and vintage t-shirts seemed to negate the corporate sentiment.
Before you came on, a white shroud was placed over the “Chicks with Attitude” logo, and I felt a little better. That’s the Liz I remember, biting the hand that feeds her. And you started your set with “Flower,” which seemed extra-ironic considering that now you’re Maybelline’s blowjob queen. You were wearing a drapey teal tube top contraption that highlighted your men’s magazine-ready physique. That I had mixed feelings about, but hell, if you’ve got it, flaunt it.
The show was actually damn good, despite my fears. I don’t expect you to play all of Exile in Guyville, but you graced us with all the highlights (“Fuck and Run,” “Divorce Song”). Even some stuff you played off the new album was rockin’, specifically “Love/Hate” (which at this point describes how I feel about you perfectly). There were a few sour notes that made me cringe internally, mostly your shimmying during “Favorite (Underwear).” You weren’t even playing guitar during that song, just gyrating. I also can’t believe you ended the encore with “H.W.C.”I didn’t want to be left with the salty taste in my mouth, but you insisted on it, so I shut my mouth and accepted my fate.
Oh fuck it, I’m completely resigned. Even though you make me angry sometimes, and lately I’ve been disappointed in you, I’m not ready to break up, Liz. You still rock hard and your self-deprecating stage presence makes it impossible for me to stay mad. What kind of relationship would we have if I didn’t support you through the rough spots? You’re still the same girl who wrote Exile in Guyville, and you’ll always be my Human Supernova.