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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Liz Phair

Funstyle

Review by Gary Hill

This set is a two disc release. The first disc is a new album by Liz Phair. The second is a disc composed of her earliest cassette only songs. The music on the first disc really covers a wide gamut of sounds and shows an artist with both talent and a wide range of musical interests. The second disc is primitive, but shows a lot of talent and promise. This set is really not what I expected, but it’s also very cool.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1 – Funstyle
Smoke

An electronic, techno kind of groove is laden with a lot of sound bites. From there it takes on a rather country meets R & B groove. This is a strange, but quite cool piece of music. This one definitely gets a parental advisor due to an “F” bomb. This is much more performance art than real music, though. I’d consider it kind of a cross between Frank Zappa’s “Valley Girl” and something from Laurie Anderson, with a bit more soul.

Bollywood
Combine that electronica, techno element with a spoken performance and some hip hop. This is far more art than song, just like the previous piece.
You Should Know Me
Folk and country music blend on this, with some jazz also coming over the top. This is the first real “song” of the disc and wanders close to progressive rock in terms of some of its overlayers. The arrangement is quite involved and intriguing and has some great vocal bits.
Miss September
Here’s a great, catchy rocker with a lot of folk rock and even some prog built into it.
My My
There’s a really tasty R & B groove to this and some jazzy overtones. It’s an intriguing cut that really screams out a times. It calls to mind something from TLC.
Oh, Bangladesh
More of a stripped down roots rock texture pervades this, but once again, the overlayers bring in a lot of variety and even some hints of progressive rock. There’s a great retro element here. There is also a mellow drop back section that is quite certainly in keeping with a progressive rock vibe. It’s a real killer movement and serves as the extended outro to the piece.
Bang! Bang!
More of that Laurie Anderson meets electronica vibe is heard here, but there is also some jazz in the mix and some progressive rock. It’s mellow and tasty.
Beat Is Up
This seems to be a song poking fun of the whole pop culture of new age psychology. It’s more of that electronica plus spoken word pieces that’s more art than music.
And He Slayed Her
Based on a rather stripped down roots rock song structure, this is catchy and cool and the overlayers add a lot of other elements to the mix.
Satisfied
This cut is much more the type of music I expected to hear from Liz Phair. It’s a catchy sort of number that has some progressive rock built into the mix along with some folk rock.
U Hate It
With an electronica meets country music base, this is about people hating Liz Phair’s music. It’s got spoken clips and some singing. It’s a funny number. In fact, the spoken word sections here are just plain hilarious. It moves out in some different directions later, and frankly, as funny as this is, it is worth the price of admission by itself. I also love the twist gag at the end where the people who hated the record loved it when it got awards. And, not only did they love it, but they claimed to love it all along, from the beginning.
Disc 2 - Girlysound
Miss Mary Mack
A stripped down, mellow rocker with an echoey arrangement, this is a take on the old traditional song. Phair seems to change the lyrics around a bit and add to them. Or perhaps I’ve never heard all the lyrics.
White Babies

An alternative rock, garage sound makes up the arrangement here. It’s cool, but a bit too raw and a bit too much like the song that preceded it.

Elvis Song
In some ways this doesn’t vary a lot from the previous two pieces, somehow, though, the more intricate song structure and stronger vocal performance make this a lot stronger than those tracks.
Valentine
Another stripped down, roots rock meets alternative number, this is stronger than all the numbers that preceded it on this second CD. The arrangement is just very tasty, particularly the multi-styled vocals and intricate yet simplistic guitar.
Speed Racer
The recording quality here isn’t as strong as the rest of the stuff, but this song is lots of fun.
In Love With Yourself
There is a classic old school rock sound and hook to this piece. It’s one of my favorites on this second disc. The overall sound and quality aren’t that far removed from the rest of the music, but it just works really well.
Wild Thing
Here is a cover of the Troggs’ classic. Phair changes the lyrics and plays it as an acoustic rocker.
Love Song
A balladic acoustic track, this feels like a female version of some of Neil Young’s music. It’s a tasty tune that’s quite cool and a highlight of the set.
Don't Hold Your Breath (If I Ever Pay You Back)
Nothing new is brought to the table and the formula is wearing a bit thin. Besides, after the cut that preceded it, this one just pales.
California
This is a mellower tune with a bit of a jazz vibe and a spoken delivery. There is definitely a parental advisory earned here. This is fun and a nice change of pace.
 
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