First Time’s the Charm

 

Exile in Guyville

I have a dentist appointment tomorrow. And a lovely fever blister on my lip.

In non-whining news, my birthday was last week. I am an old woman. But my mom got me an iPod nano, so, I can live with being old for now, I guess.

OK, to the point, which is, broadly speaking: What happened to Liz Phair?

On my new iPod nano, I have Exile in Guyville. I’d heard raves and good things, but was only able to download “Fuck and Run” before iTunes removed it from their online catalog. Boo. Then it was reissued! Yay. So I listened to see what all the fuss was about. And I see it, I really do. I’ve been listening to it almost nonstop lately. I think my favorite may be “Divorce Song” or the old classic “Fuck and Run” or hell, they’re almost all good. I’d heard raves about “Flower” but eh, not sure if it’s one of my favorites. It seems to be just her saying as many dirty things as she can, but I’ll keep listening because I am probably missing some Very Important Hidden Meaning. I mean, with “Fuck and Run” you get the anger and the sex. You get emotion blended with explicitness and it seems to work better. But I still see why it’s considered A Very Good Album. Because it is. (Also, I just realized maybe “Flower” is so groundbreaking because perhaps women weren’t supposed to sing/think/say things like that 15 years ago? So, nevermind me).

I had Liz Phair’s self-titled album when it came out a few years ago, when I was still unaware of Exile. Thinking about it now makes me cringe a bit because Exile is just so much darn better and…I hesitate to say authentic, but fine. Authentic. Original. Thought-provoking. “Divorce Song” in 3 minutes manages to surpass her whole self-titled CD. It makes me sad because I was reading a Newsweek story about the reissue and how she kind of had to deal with all these pissed off fans who were unhappy that she changed so much after Exile. I can see their point and I can also see hers. It’s kind of like she has Alanis Morissette syndrome. People will always consider your first album to be The Ultimate Album, and you’ll never be able to surpass it. Ever. And then Liz Phair was apparently forced into working with The Matrix to do some of the poppy stuff on her self-titled album.

I heard once that you have all your life to write your first book. But then, after that, you have deadlines and expectations. I imagine the same is true with music or just about any form of art. You can pour everything into that one album, and maybe it will be the pinnacle of your career. Which makes you wonder, why keep going? Harper Lee decided not to-To Kill a Mockingbird was it for her. Maybe she only had one story to tell. Did Liz Phair only have one really good album in her?

Switching to another medium, did Alice Sebold only have one novel in the form of The Lovely Bones? Because I was really excited about her follow-up, The Almost Moon, despite the weird title. Then I read reviews that were horrible and I wondered if she was resentful, even subconsciously, of how she had been pegged and decided to rebel against it. It’s so strange to me: Liz Phair she got praised for the rawness of Exile, yet her later albums were too polished for many’s taste. Did success change her or was it just life? You can’t expect an artist to stay the same forever, but you don’t want them to change so much you don’t recognize the person you fell in love with. It’s like a weird little marriage.

Anybody else got any examples of first albums or books or anythings that were freakin’ awesome? And then after that there were good moments but never the same greatness? Another possible example is Tori Amos-she had some good songs after Little Earthquakes, but that’s her seminal work to me and probably most of her fans. I still consider her a genius, albeit one who has so many ideas and is so damn smart it doesn’t always translate well to album form.  

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2 Comments

Filed under Music

2 responses to “First Time’s the Charm

  1. Hello, Mysterious Blogger!

    I was killing time at work, reading your blogs, when I realized I should probably leave a mark to show that, yes, a random dude has been reading your postings, and yes, he very much appreciates your work!

    With that out of the way, I agree that there really are many an artist out there that have been shunned for suffering the shame of a sophomore slump. I do, however, believe that the bigger probelm is for the artist to create a follow-up effort after he or she has achieved public fame. For example, M. Night Shyamalan broke ground with “Sixth Sense” but failed to direct a worthy follow up. The movie was not the first one he directed, but it was the first one to be widely recognized. It gave us one of the most memorable one-liners in film history for pete’s sake, and no other effort by him has ever come close to the status reached by this movie! I believe that getting back-to-back hits after staying in the underground for so long is more frustrating because you’ve already had a taste of the top, so why go back to square one?

  2. picklesinmytuna

    I’m totally pissed because I can’t remember if I wished you Happy Birthday.

    I love you, your sharp whit, your scathing sarcasm, your whiskey swilling ways, your love of the blues, your gorgeous face, your beautiful family, your refrigerator full of soda…so many things….If I happened to neglect you on that oh so special day of the anniversary of when you happened into the world, well, I feel shame. Let me say to you today, Happy Belated Birthday. MmmmmWAH!

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