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Classic Reviews: Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville

Exile in Guyville, Liz Phair
Matador, 1993

This article originally appeared in the April 1993 issue of SPIN.

Liz Phair is a well-off Winnetka, Illinois, brat. Liberally educated at Oberlin, she spent years cooped-up in her bedroom with a guitar and a Tascam writing primitive pop songs about all the boys she’s fucked and how they soon fucked her over. Exile in Guyville, with its obvious Stones wink, is her 18-song debut, a travelogue whose landmarks are the evil men she’s let wreak havoc upon her. With “Flower” declaring “I want to be your blowjob queen,” and “Fuck and Run” wondering “whatever happened to a boyfriend?” the glaringly inconsistent lyrics make Phair sound like a Freudian wet dream. Yet, musically, the bulk of Exile, masterfully produced by drummer Brad Wood, is an astounding hunk of fresh-faced, edgy pop capped by Phair’s clean but lacerating guitar-strum and a remarkable sense of vocal delivery. Her hook-laden pop, perfectly oblivious to current indie-land trends, would sound better if some of the gratuitous, weaker songs were removed, but Phair doesn’t merely show promise — she seems to have it all, good and bad, already.