Back in high school, I knew of Liz Phair and I knew of her music but back in high school I was a young and foolish boy; one who wasn’t particularly interested in hearing the opening shots of post-feminist rock fired across the bow of the ship of the dying 80s music scene. It would take another few years before a girlfriend of mine formally introduced me to Exile in Guyville; which was one of about twenty CDs that she owned. Eventually, owing at least in part to a 1000 mile solo drive I took, that album grew on me and stuck like a barnacle.
What is it about Liz Phair? She’s not as sultry as Shirley Manson, not as rambunctious as Gwen Stefani, not as sullen as Fiona Apple and not as black as Missy Elliot. When I sat down to compile a mix of the seminal songs by the twenty most important women in rock history, I eventually had to abandon the project; it was impossible because in such a compilation Liz Phair would require a disc all her own. In a word, Liz Phair is amazing. Essentially, this status of amazing is bestowed due to three distinct concepts Liz Phair embodies in a manner that one else ever could.
For one thing, it was Liz Phair who first made me realize that girls, even women, could really be interested in sex. Remember that I discovered Liz Phair’s music when I was a stupid teenager. Back then sex was more like a war; it involved a constant battle and girls were well defended in their indestructible bunkers of pure defense. Back then, every girl seemed to be saving herself for something or other. The plain fact was that they were all around fifteen or so, which with 20/20 hindsight I must say is way too young for sex. But still, we boys wanted what we wanted. And then, there was Liz Phair. There she was saying it blatantly in her songs. She wanted sex, she fantasized about sex, she actually enjoyed sex. It was a revelation. Women could be just as crazed as men. Now, looking back, as I sometimes do, I realize that Ms. Phair was in fact creating a character that would allow her to break out of her naturally shy shell. That didn’t matter when I was seventeen. Sometimes it doesn’t matter now.