Holy Shit! She's Still Swimming! A Defense of Liz Phair

"Holy shit! Liz Phair's gone off the deep end!"

Since July 5, LAST WEEK, that's been the basic critical reception to her self-released, ambush new record Funstyle. Reinvesting in some of her oft-nutty Girlysound roots (lyrical proof: "my black market white baby dealer brings back clean, fresh, white babies to me," from "White Babies") via moments of banter and joking, the record has managed to simultaneously alienate critics and fans alike while leaving the mental health experts and former psych majors penning music blogs everywhere salivating with bloodlust. Unorthodox musical choices, most notoriously bangra and rap, led to the derisive headlines: "Liz Phair: WTF" (Pitchfork), "Interesting, Even to Hate" (LA Times Blog), "Liz Phair Raps, Confuses in Her New Single, 'Bollywood' (Jezebel). "Liz Phair Totally Eminems New Autobiographical Rap Track" (This Crazy Website). But treating Liz Phair like a halfwit isn't really the right approach. Because whether or not she ever "resurrects" her career, she's already had one album consecrated in the annals of bulletproof records.

Addressing listener concerns about her mental well-being in a note, "How to Like It," posted on her website, Phair sheds some light: "You were never supposed to hear these songs," she said. "These songs lost me my management, my record deal and a lot of nights of sleep." Apparently (without the knowledge of most of the music community), Phair left ATO "almost a year ago". News to everyone, sure, but the real news here is not that Liz Phair fell on her ass--which is, in any case, debatable; the album's moments of freewheeling intellectual play, even given the musical oddities are marked departures from her last two efforts, and obviously, as Phair tells it, these are all her. The real news is that these songs weren't released in a vacuum, with no follow-up intended at all, and while it may be too early to speculate, she does admit that there are songs "coming up next."

More evidence, you say? "This is my journey. Ill keep sending you postcards. - Liz," is her sign off. Funstyle may have been a career setback for her in most eyes, but for the first time in a long time, it seems like Phair is a free agent again, messing with people, turning shit upside down, and all around not giving a damn: that's the Liz Phair, whether you recognize it on Funstyle or not, that we all loved way back when. "Love them, or hate them," she wrote, "but dont mistake them for anything other than an entirely personal, un-tethered-from-the-machine, free for all view of the world, refracted through my own crazy lens." Besides, check out that photo. Girl shoots nails from them eyes. (via P4k via WSJ)

Holy Shit! She's Still Swimming! A Defense of Liz Phair