Does Anyone Still Care That Liz Phair Was Once Really, Really Great?
So my generation's Exile gets an unnecessary reissue with only a few bonus tracks and a needless DVD. Sweet. Perhaps the only person who needed this product more than Liz Phair was Liz Phair's kid. The rest of us should prepare to shovel through the new-and-improved Liz Phair profile and the revisiting of all her missteps and failures. It's an all-too-familiar cycle for the songwriter only now we get to look back at Phair circa 1993.
Thumbing through her arc now feels kinda sad—same kinda sad one feels when thinking about the Blake Babies' Juliana (I should get points for namedropping that band) or reading Dean Wareham's book or listening to the Breeders' new one. And this reissue only reminds one of her sad career arc.
The Phair Career Arc: College-Critic's Darling-Baby-Lilith-The Matrix-And, finally, whining about her lack of relevancy. All without the benefit and/or distraction of heavy drugs. So yeah, arc is sad and probably will never get better, will never include an improbable Rick Rubin-produced comeback.
To look at another way, the reissue starts us back at almost zero and raises expectations all over again. Or at least makes us think about Phair on magazine covers and everyone or nearly everyone thinking she'd be the Next Big Thing.
Meredith Brooks became the next big thing. And other singer-songwriters who write bad poetry (about horses?) became the next big thing. Now the next big thing is hairy dudes with AM voices. Phair was never going to break out. Fine. But she still went ahead and tried. Exile reminds us of when she didn't have to.
As even Phair realizes, Exile hit people personally. I still know most of the songs by heart and had a grand time singing along to them on a recent trip home from Pittsburgh.
The reissue won't take away my devotion to Exile and her funny underrated third record. Exile shouldn't need one. It still stands on its own. It shouldn't be saddled with the weight of Phair's fuckups and her ambitions of career revival. But reissues tend to do that.
If the album needs a tribute, this is the one you should read.