The darling of 90s of alternative rock, Liz Phair, is releasing her first album in almost a decade this May, and the singles so far are… interesting. Phair didn’t leave things on a great note in 2010. After widespread accusations of “selling out” on her self-titled major-label debut (which is an awesome album by the way), she decided to buck the system, defy her managers, and release the music she wanted to make. This would have gone down as one of the all-time biggest power moves in indie rock, the only problem being that the music she wanted to make was rap music so unintentionally horrifying that it put Death Grips to shame a full year before the band even debuted.
That was the last anyone heard of Liz Phair for almost a decade until she resurfaced with a new recording contract, and a suspiciously positive outlook on the record industry early last year. A pandemic delay later, and we got the first single, a tribute song to Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson titled “Hey Lou.” This seems pretty safe, right? A tribute to the favorite power couple of music nerds everywhere. Well, I guess so, but I still have my reservations. The music video and song paired together have a certain… fanfiction-y (?) effect that feels a little odd coming from an adult woman in her fifties. The effect is made even stranger considering that Lou Reed is dead, and Laurie Anderson is still alive, but it’s nothing inappropriate or creepy, just an odd choice for a comeback single.
Then, a few days ago, Phair uploaded her second single, “Spanish Doors” to her Youtube Music account, before, and I swear to you this is true, deleting it so quickly that there is zero press coverage of the song and I’m unsure of whether I dreamt it. The song wasn’t bad, in fact, I remember liking it, but it did have an uncharacteristic electronic production that gives me twitchy flashbacks to her 2010 album. I’m going to move on from this half-baked prophecy because I can’t even verify that this was a real thing that happened, but just know that I’m very alarmed.
I’m awaiting this new album in rapt horror. I love basically everything Liz Phair has released, including the nightmare of an album from 2010. There’s something of a loose cannon nature to her public image that has only intensified with age. I don’t know if she can match the artistic grandeur of her fellow chick rocker Fiona Apple, who just released her surprise return to music last year. Here’s hoping that Phair has been saving up a decade’s worth of good ideas, or at the very least, she will give us an album full of her very worst.