Wednesday, July 2, 2008

NQL Roundtable Discussion of Exile in Guyville

Liz Phair's excellent debut Exile in Guyville just celebrated a birthday. The extended family at NQL felt this called for a roundtable! Everyone has been talking about this album lately, well, the discussion begins and ends inside the walls of 1632 N. Jay Bennett Rd. We'll tell you what the album really means and its importance on the music landscape. And we're more than qualified, especially since a few of those chiming in below have never even heard it.

Alex Crisafulli: Okay everyone, Exile in Guyville just turned 15. Everyone's assignment was to listen to it this weekend so we could discuss. Raise your hand if you actually did it.

[Two people raise their hand.]

Alex: Oh, c’mon!

Matt Farra: I will be the first to admit that I didn't get a chance to buy the CD this weekend because when I went to the record store this weekend I was heading up to the register with Exile in Guyville in hand when one of Louisville's most important hipsters started walking towards me to see what I was purchasing. I immediately hid Exile in Guyville behind the Enon section and ran to the vinyl section and picked-up an old Joy Division album...or at least what I thought was a Joy Division album. For some reason, I accidentally grabbed System of a Down S/T. As I again made my way to the register, I approached Mr. Tightjeans for approval and showed him my intended purchase. He sized me up and then asked that I leave the store and never come back again.

Audrey Wen: I searched furiously in my 15 year-old Case Logic and couldn't find Exile. I must have given it to my sister or something. Anyway, I found it on iTunes and was only able to get through about two-thirds of the album. I became so fixated on how much my cat's personality was written in the lyrics. Then I realized it was probably necessary to have a girl's, I mean, woman's perspective on this album.

Brian Herrmann: I was too busy watching seven movies this weekend. Sorry. 'Sunshine' is the shit, by the way.

Anna Deem: I skimmed through it and was kind of amazed at how annoying most of it was. I think I liked it better when I was young and angsty. Her voice is so deadpan, it's too much. Pitchfork gave the reissue a 9.6 the other day though. The most interesting part of their review to me was a line along the lines of: "Phair has famously struggled to become a star, and never quite made it." Kind of sad, poor Liz.

Alex: Brian, you watched seven movies? Do you have mono or something? Breathe on me, and I'll kill ya. I think nearly everything in that review is spot on. Her voice is a bit monotone and raspy but it perfectly compliments the lo-fi sound that Brad Wood was going for.

Brian: What else am I gonna do on the weekend, go outside?

Audrey: Alex, a little more than air would have to be exchanged in order forBrian to give you mono. The album cover I read was from the photo booth in the Rainbo Club in Wicker Park. It made me wonder what series of escalating bets resulted in first, taking the picture and second, the decision to make it the cover. But agreed, I thought the Pitchfork review was a good one. Probably because it was the first review that wasn't completely over my head and impossible to understand.

Alex: ..And let's not forget, third, take your shirt off for the picture.

Matt: Brian, if you hadn't been watching movies you could have been at the Useless Wooden Toys show in Bloomington. I guess he wasn't the next GG Allin?

Alex: A dude named Jan? People actually recycling??? We're getting too soft in this country!

Brian: Matt, I got a flier last Thursday for that show. Jan, a guy who plays ultimate here, hosted that party at his house on N. Arlington, I believe. Local band Gravitas played as well. That's fucked. It was three bucks. I'm guessing Jan won't be having any more basement shows, or maybe even play ultimate, any time soon.

Matt: Three dollars?????? They really know how to stab their fans in the back in Bloomington!

Brian: And I think Jan is a Swede.

Alex: [Shaking his fist in the air.] He better be!

Anna: Hey, idiots, can we actually talk about the topic at hand?

Jim Powers: Alright, fine, I’ll chime in. I actually did my homework and listened to it, albeit for the first time. It was a lot better than I thought it would be. I thought it would sound like it was made in 1993 but it actually sounds pretty fresh. This is my main problem with albums like Nevermind - they sound too dated. I can see how generations of angsty teen girls will latch on to this forever. I like that song where she says fuck a lot, but not because she says fuck a lot, and the first one. And one of the bonus tracks. Something about Alaska.

Audrey: I think I was one of those angsty teen girls when this came out. But Liz Phair wasn't my choice of music to rock out to in my bedroom. I never really got into her. I think her atonal sound turned me off, even if her lyrics were abrasive and therefore awesome when you are a teenager. My hormonally-driven rage/despair instead somehow resonated with Naughty By Nature, Cypress Hill, Beastie Boys and Billie Holiday. I like it though, probably because I'm more angsty now than ever. “6'1" and “Explain It To Me” are my favorites. Can we stop using the word angsty now. I feel like being angst-ridden is basically implied when talking about being a teenager.

Travis Newman: I like how this album was "green" and "sustainable" way before it was in vogue as evident in her song "Feed The Tree".
[Everyone stares at Travis in silence]

Travis: What? These are different people? Fine, I still haven't listened to this album. I thought it was just a concept album about blowjobs or something.

Jim: Holy shit I'm pretty sure 13 or 14 year old me had the Cassingle for "Feed the Tree." Belly. Also, I can't listen to anything from the early to mid '90s without thinking what Beavis and Butthead would have said about it. I'm guessing they would have said that Liz Phair was hot and wasn't trying hard enough.

Matt: Travis, it's an album about whatever you want it to be. For some it’s about overcoming adolescence...apparently for others like yourself--it's for something totally different. That is why this country is so GREAT!

Alex: For me it was about buying the album when I was 15 at Wal-Mart for $17.99 because some kid down the street told me you could see her nipples inside the booklet. That kid lied.

Brian Herrmann: I think he might have been talking about a PJ Harvey album. I remember some nipples in the sleeve of Dry, and maybe Rid of Me.

Alex: [Arising from his seat.] Well then, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to Wal-Mart. I'll be back soon.

Jim Powers: You don't have to go all the way to Wal-Mart to see nipples. Some kid told me there are some on the Internet. It might have been the same kid that told you about Liz Phair's though, so it might not be true.

[Alex sits back down and pulls out a laptop from a nearby briefcase.]

Matt: With all this talk of nipples--there goes sending this article to my Mom for her to read. I thought we were going to take the Jerry Seinfeld approach to the music/blogging industry--not the Andrew Dice Clay.

Brian: There was a nip slip in Seinfeld. Remember Elaine's Christmas card?

Anna Deem: Has anyone seen this interview Liz Phair did with Time Out Chicago? It's kind of interesting, the interviewer is a total dick to her for no real reason.

Brian: I saw that. Seemed like Novid Parsi wanted Phair to say, 'OK, I'm a hack.'

Alex: That was a tough interview. But Liz should have known what she was getting into. Everyone knows Time Out Chicago only reports and covers subject matter of the highest integrity and it's only fair that they expect the same out of those that they grant the privilege to cover. Also, I thought that article on page 28 where they counted down the ten best trani bars was really well written. And going back to Belly, I have not thought about "Feed the Tree" in a long, long time. Nice work, Travis. What was that album called? Star?? If I recall "Feed the Tree" was something like track 9. Great idea there. Hey everyone, why don't we make everyone wade through 7 or 8 songs of crap before finally coming upon our only decent hit.

Brian: As I recall, 'Gepetto' was also a hit single from that album, and preceded 'Feed the Tree' in the tracklist. I loved the cassingle. The cheapness, the cardboard case, the always terrible flipside.

Alex: Haha, Brian likes Belly. One thing I'll say in defense of Liz Phair, her second album Whip Smart was damn good, too. And her third JasonWilliamsSpaceEgg wasn't bad either.

Audrey: I thought it was called ClaytonBigsbySpaceEgg.

Brian: I said, 'Look here, buddy, if anyone's gonna have sex with my sister, it's gonna be me!'

Alex: Kinda off the record but maybe not....but is anyone else dying to hear "Feed the Tree" right now? It really was a pretty good song.

Jim: It was in my head all night last night. And now it's there again. It was a good song - I was a little embarassed to admit ownership of the cassingle. I should probably be more embarassed that I think I had a Candlebox cassingle too at some point. What an awful band name. And I wish Liz Phair had named her second album ChocolateThunderSpaceEgg, so that I could call it DarrylDawkinsSpaceEgg.

Brian: That's commodified post-grunge for you. Candlebox, Lifehouse, Nickelback, Puddle of Mudd, Trapt. Here's what I would've called my band, ca. 1995: Paintinglamp. Or perhaps Trashbagg.

Audrey: I would see a Trashbagg show in a heartbeat.

Alex: I had the entire Belly album, and the Candlebox album. We all did. In high school I saw Candlebox in Peoria on tour for their second album Lucy. During their set Kevin Martin goes, "And no, we don't know who Lucy is so quit asking!" No one was asking. I think Sponge and Our Lady Peace opened. And I wish Liz Phair had called the album ChocolateThunderSpaceJam. Only instead of being an album, I wish it were a screenplay starring Darryl Dawkins and the Looney Tunes gang.

Brian: Kevin Turner wooed the girl I liked with Candlebox tickets. And a driver's license. And no acne. The bastard.

Matt: I don't know where I was during this period you guys are discussing…I just know that Tool had Undertow with 69 tracks. Although I acted like I knew the significance of that number--I had no idea. How could a band so awesome get away with a cheesy, no pun intended, gimmick?

Travis: First, 69 wasn't discovered as a cool number until 1995, so Tool was ahead of their time, along with UpperDeck. When Undertow came out the cliched "funny" number was 43.

Alex: I heard Nash Kato 43’ed Liz Phair in the Double Door bathroom back in ’91. Just what I heard.

Travis: When I recently culled my CD collection to find out who would make it onto my 80 gig iPod, I have to admit that both “You” and “Changes” from Candlebox's eponymous debut made the cut. But not “Far Behind”, screw that, I have standards. Also, I’ve been kidding this entire time, I listened to Exile. My favorite track is “Seether.”

Audrey: You’re such a jackass.

Alex: Upper Deck may have been ahead of their time but they also single handedly ruined the baseball card industry. No more $0.50 packs. No more gum. Oh no, we're going to have high gloss, pictures on both sides, a hologram and it's gonna cost you $1.75. Screw you, Upper Deck. Although, that Griffey card was admittedly awesome. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go see if anyone on ebay has bid on my Dwight Gooden card collection. I have the Topps, Donruss, and Fleer rookie cards, the ‘84 Topps updated card, and every other card associated with the Doc leading up to 1991. The bidding started at $10.

Travis: I was only referring to UpperDeck’s use of "69", by putting players with "Porn Star Names" in numbered cards ending in "69", i.e. Dickie Thon at #769.

Matt: Alex, Fleer and Donruss where never in the "gum with cards" business. Can someone please explain the significance of holograms in general?

Travis: Anti-counterfeiting.

Jim: The significance of holograms in general: none. Holograms are stupid. UpperDeck also was the first to introduce the foil packaging to prevent the whole “open the wax pack, take out the good shit, re-seal the wax pack with an iron” trick. Score had non wax packs in 1988, but they weren't foil so fuck them.

Alex: Matt, there was no gum, but the spirit was the same. They were affordable and made card collecting fun for youngsters. Any by golly, Travis is right, here's my Don Asse 1989 UpperDeck card. Sure enough, #169.

Jim: Actually, let me amend what I just said. Holograms are not stupid if somehow the technology behind them leads to either a) flying cars, b) the cure for AIDS and/or cancer, c) sex robots, or d) an NCAA football playoff. If not, holograms are stupid.

Brian: I always wondered how flying cars didn't just crash into each other all the time. Now I know: hologram roads. Talk about efficient use of vertical space.

Travis: Is that how they do it in Tokyo? Hologram roads?

Matt: I think Japanese do it the same way as Americans! Hey-yoooooooooo!

Brian: Isn't Hologram Roads a Springsteen album? That triple-live thing?

Alex: I can’t believe I came all the way from DC to talk about holograms. This sucks.

Matt: Okay, well then back to this album you guys are talking about? Would you say it's more Redman or Method Man in style, energy and flow?

Audrey: Well for starters, Liz Phair's voice is about an octave lower than Method Man's.

Brian: Wait. What year is this? 1998?

Alex: You are all idiots. All of you. For the two of us that have actually listened to the record and didn't show up today for the two bags of 'Tato Skins that I was nice enough to bring, let's discuss the racier songs on the record like "Flower" and "Fuck and Run". Do you think these songs come off as some sort of hard-lined feminist statement or just silly antidotes of a girl trying a bit too hard to sound edgy?

Travis: Seriously, this time I actually listened to it. I love the in-your-face feminism of that song that goes "I'm a Bitch/I'm a Lover/I'm a Child...". No, I kid. I really did listen to it, I was joking earlier. I was pleasantly surprised at the overall sound of the album. I did expect a “Seether”, which you can't fight, by the way, vibe. But, I'll agree with Jim Powers that this album did not betray its' early-90sness, in fact I'd believe you if you told me this was a new release. I liked the diversity of the tracks, also unexpected, but I did not see the supposed song-by-song response to Exile On Main Street. Maybe I need to listen to it more, or maybe its one of those bullshit, "This is a recreation of how I remember the album" concepts, a la the Dirty Projectors. Also, her voice…this is the same girl whose song was used by ESPN to make me think Diana Taurasi is not only Beautiful but also not a Gorgon? Sounded more like the chick from L7 who sang “Pretend We're Dead.” Nevertheless, I dug it. I mean, Reality Bites, right? As for the lyrics...I probably need to give it another round, because I was busy watching the NBA draft and reading Comic Economist, to give the lyrics my full attention. And I get the impression that the lyrics are actually noteworthy, so I'll report back after listen two and three. Oh, and angst.

Audrey: I can’t believe all this time you had actually listened to it but didn’t say anything. And I had forgotten how good ‘Tato Skins were. Where have they been?

Jim: I'd be interested to listen to the album as a response to Exile literally. Like, listen to "Rocks Off, then "6'1"", then "Rip this Joint", etc. I think I might actually do this by making a playlist using science.

Alex: [laughs] It's not a response to Exile on Main Street. At least, not track by track. She claims it is, but there is nothing suggestive in the lyrics or music that would indicate anything of the sort. I think it's more of a response to the Wicker Park "idie" scene being an all guy's club at the time and she illustrated her point by using the title of an old and classic album that was written by a bunch of dudes.

Jim: As for the question about the "edgier" songs, I do think that the use of profanity, like in “Fuck and Run”, in the early '90s can be seen as an attempt at causing a stir. Nowadays, with kids being de-sensitized by the rap music and evil video games such as Mario Kart, profanity is less of a big deal. But I feel like, if you're a musician in the early '90s, you use profanity consciously and to make some sort of point. Unless you're 2 Live Crew - I don't think there was a point to "The Fuck Shop". It was kind of a big deal to have a Tipper Gore sticker on your cover, made you into a badass rebel, and a big deal for 14 year old me to own a record with one of those stickers. I even remember hiding the liner notes to BloodSugarSexMagic from my parents.

Anna: To answer your question, Alex, I think the album works as a collective feminist statement, rather than just a pissed off girl trying to sound tough. However, I think if she had released Exile today instead of in 1993, the lyrics wouldn't pack as much of a punch as they did then. A song like "Fuck and Run," which isn't really that subversive to begin with, would barely make a blip on the critics' radars, because who really writes feminist albums anymore? And who really takes things like that seriously anymore? It was more of a '90s "fuck you I'm woman hear me roar" kind of thing, I think. Anyway, I was reading reviews of her Exile shows, and I heard that none of the "guys" of Guyville showed up. I guess that big "fuck you" to all of them in '93 didn't really go over too well.

Alex: I kept reading that too, but found it be very vague. Did she extend an open invitation to Kato and Steve Albini or something?

Anna: Maybe she texted everyone: "Hey guys im at the Vic tonight lol come hang out like old times!"

Audrey: I watched the Liz Phair interview on Pitchfork TV and I seem to remember her hand gesturing a John Woo-style, machine-fire, bird-flipping when the interviewer, Amanda Petrusi-something asked her about her intentions behind Exile. At the time that she recorded Exile, it was meant to be a humongous eff you to the indie music scene, especially directed towards the men involved. But she said that going back and listening to it made her sort of sad as well. But that Amanda interviews like she's trying to pledge for a sorority. She looks pretty, tries to get people to agree with her, but in the end is sort of non-descript. I was worried at the end they’d start talking about shoes.

Brian: I watched about 20 seconds of that interview before becoming too disgusted by sycophancy to continue. Petrusich ought to stick to print interviews.

Jim: Me, too. Petrusich looks like Laura Dern. And the more I think about Exile the more I think it's excellent. What do you all think it lead to and influenced? Do you think singers like Alanis Morissette and Fiona Apple would have become popular with out Exile? Sleater-Kinney? I actually love Apple's second album and I think it has a lot in common with Exile, lyrically, not musically. I also think that Liz's older stuff unfortunately has to be listened to in light of her newer stuff, which I haven't listened to but seems pretty terrible. Maybe she's just not that talented and lucked into Exile. Happens all the time. I can't think of another band or artist off hand with a great debut followed by a string of crap. Ooh, The Matrix and sequels, different but similar.

Audrey: [Barely audible as her mouth is full of ‘Tato Skins.] I’m not sure what the album lead to and influenced but I really love Tidal. It's a phenomenal album, even if you are deaf and can only read the lyrics.

Alex: I have a hard time thinking about Fiona Apple without being reminded of her debacle of an acceptance speech at the VMA’s that one year. I wonder if that’s on Youtube. But I couldn’t agree more about Exile in Guyville being a phenomenal record. Then and now. And there aren’t too many records that get talked about 15 years after the fact, so regardless of her later records, and I still contend Whipsmart and SpaceEgg are really good, she’ll always be able to hang her hat on that.

Travis: [Mimicking Nina Gordon’s voice] You can’t fight the Seether!

1 comment:

Joel Reese said...

Ok, you guys will probably never see this comment, but this article was hilarious and a really smart, fun read. Well done.

eXTReMe Tracker