Liz Phair | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Liz Phair 

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LIZ PHAIR

In an October 1994 Rolling Stone feature, shortly after the release of her second album, Whip-Smart (Matador/Atlantic), Liz Phair said, "The first album is for Your People; the second album is for the People; the third is for Everybody." When it comes out, on August 11, we'll see if Everybody likes Phair's long-delayed Whitechocolatespaceegg (Matador/Capitol), but there's no question that it's the most intentionally accessible record she's made. The melodies are her strongest yet, the production--mostly by R.E.M. regular Scott Litt and Phair's old Svengali, Brad Wood--is slick without overwhelming Phair's lean aesthetic, and the lyrics are less likely to turn off mainstream listeners than radio-unfriendly inside jabs at Wicker Park like "Fuck and Run." Folks who liked Phair's ballsier material are bound to grumble over tunes like "Johnny Feelgood," whose narrator enjoys submitting to unseemly machismo, and "What Makes You Happy," about having found Mr. Right. But the brassy twentysomething who wrote Exile in Guyville is now in her early 30s, married, and a mother, and that shades--rather than overshadows--the declarations of independence and self-doubt that marked her earlier stuff: Phair frets about the stress of parenthood on marriage on "Go On Ahead" and humorously confronts the loot factor in the happiness equation on "Shitloads of Money." And unlike the overambitious Exile, the new album doesn't have a musical dud on it; the exuberant "Polyester Bride" and the delicate "Fantasize" are perfect pop songs. Backed by a band that includes Velvet Crush drummer Ric Menck, Phair's touring as part of Lilith Fair; reports from earlier stops suggest that she has finally overcome her debilitating stage fright to become a fine performer. Bonnie Raitt, Des'ree, and N'dea Davenport are also worth the trek to Tinley Park. Wednesday, 4:30 PM, New World Music Theatre, I-80 and Harlem, Tinley Park; 708-614-1616 or 312-559-1212. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by James Crump-RSP.

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