Spin has a great oral history of Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville. Now, the idea of a straightforward sonic narrative led by a brilliant, talented, beautiful woman seems fairly commonplace. In 1993, that seemed about as likely to happen as Flava Flav becoming the next president of the United States.
At the time, I was in college during my peak dating years. The boys and I would sit around over cards, bitching and moaning about how you could never get a straight answer from a woman, how we never seemed to be able to find out what they wanted or expected, let alone being able to do anything to competently and sensitively fill that void, and then being chastised and punished for lacking the ability to read those inscrutable feminine minds.
And then came Exile in Guyville. This was a chick around our age who liked to drink, fuck and expected our typical young guy bullshit, but was very upfront about her expectations and desires and how she in no way intended to put up with that stupid boy crap. Liz was sexy and girly, yet one of the boys. We all had hard-ons for her, but we could all see ourselves just hanging out with her for hours, slamming shots of Southern Comfort while sipping Keystone and talking bands, sex and whatever random topics floated into the discussion. Nirvana, the Pixies, Butthole Surfers, Soundgarden, Beck and bunch of the heavy rocking sausage fest that was standard in the early 1990s had their CDs set aside so that Liz could be our card-playing soundtrack.
Musically, it was something all of us heavy rock-loving boys were completely unprepared for, but instantly drawn to. This wasn’t the overrated punk rock of, say, 7 Year Bitch, the soft, unrelatable sounds of female artists our parents had grown up with (Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Carol King, etc.) or pop bullshit (TLC, SWV, Mariah Carey or Madonna, who’d pretty much jumped the shark at the point for anyone other than hardcore fans or her gay base). This album rocked in a way us XY’s could relate to, but in a way unique to the XX who created it.
And now, as an old guy, I look forward to the next couple of years, as my daughter approaches the age when she will be ready to listen to Exile in Guyville. My daughter’s already strong, smart, beautiful and refuses to put up with the boys’ stupid shenanigans. I just want her to listen to Liz and know she isn’t alone.