Her debut album, 1993’s Exile in Guyville, was a barrier-smashing success that shook up the all-male independent music scene with its fresh sound and frank sexuality. Songs such as ‘Fuck and Run’ and ‘Flower’ were shocking both for their explicit lyrics and the deadpan manner in which Phair sang them. The album (which received a 15th anniversary reissue just this year) is deservedly considered by critics as one of the best albums of the past few decades.
But in a way it was all downhill from there. Her second album, Whip-Smart was unexceptional. Her third, Whitechocolatespaceegg, had plenty of great tracks (including semi-hit ‘Polyester Bride’) but it was quickly forgotten. And then she disappeared for awhile.
But in 2003 she returned, after pairing up with Avril Lavigne’s songwriting and producing team, to release a self-titled album largely vilified by critics. How could such a raw talent release something so polished and artificial? To be fair, the songs are pretty good… but it does scream ‘sell out.’
She did manage to sneak in a few dirty parts as a nod to her off-color roots. Track 11, which only appears on the ‘explicit’ release of the album, is titled ‘H.W.C.’ and stands for “hot white…” — I’ll let you figure out the third word.
And in the smash hit ‘Why Can’t I?’ which got endless airplay on Radio Disney, she sneaked this lyric past unsuspecting tweens (like my neice) and their parents:
We haven’t fucked yet, but my heads spinning
So I guess you have to give her some credit.
Today’s song, ‘Stratford-On-Guy,’ comes near the end of Exile in Guyville and paints a pretty neat picture of a late-night plane trip. Nothing too earth-shattering or controversial, but I’ve always liked it.