Link: Liz Phair Interview

Liz Phair has some books coming out soon. I’m not clear based on the story, but it seems like two memoirs are on their way. I’m a fan but that idea didn’t excite me until I read this interview with Rob Tannenbaum, which dropped on vulture.com today. I’ve been a big Liz Phair fan from the beginning, so big that I actually really liked her 2003 eponymously named Liz Phair elpee, which was given a provocative 0.0 (on a scale of 10) rating by Pitchfork. It also provoked attacks on Phair by Meghan O’Rourke and others, who should all have known better. My point isn’t that Phair is bulletproof. You’re entitled to dislike her music, obviously, which is odd and aggressive and indie most of the time, on the merits (or demerits), but she is an artist with a long history of putting her heart and soul on the line. In her defense, at some point (after four or five albums, let’s say) she should have earned trust instead of enmity from those who admired those early albums. She’s a singer songwriter, give her a break (I would think would be the default), but they turned on her brutally, dismissively. It was terrible. That issue was tackled 16 years ago, and mercifully Phair is still kicking it Today we have a woman who is putting on hot shows (I saw her in Denver and Brooklyn recently) and despite her protestations about stage fright she seems like a live wire living for the spotlight.

This post is about the interview with Tannenbaum, in which Phair talks about a lot of things that wouldn’t be the first thing you think about a singer-songwriter promoting a book. Or two. But it’s also a chance to thumb our noses at Pitchfork and the others who dismissed the woman rather than engage with what she was trying to do. If you didn’t understand Phair you might think this commercial move was reprehensible, but it’s way more interesting to think about how that reviled album differs from both Brittany and all the indie expectations that provoked the haters.

It Should Have Been Me X 2

My friend Rael posted about a girl group called the Fortune Cookies on Facebook. They have a record called It Should Have Been Me. Good song, standard girl group arrangement. The video uses The Graduate well. https://youtu.be/a7da84nRkKY But of course things don’t stop there. There is, it turns out, another song called It Should Have Been Me with a wedding theme, and a totally different sound. Also well worth hearing.

Donnie Fritts Has Died

I’m always feel badly when I learn way too late about a songwriter who wrote a song I really like. Donnie Fritts wrote Breakfast in Bed, which was recorded by Dusty Springfield, with Eddie Hinton. He also wrote, with Hinton, the Box Tops’ Choo Choo Train. There is an obit here, an interesting guy who led an interesting life, never finding the fame but being famous all over.

David Berman is dead.

I’d heard of the Silver Jews, but I never listened to them. I had no idea that Berman started his first band with Stephen Malkmus, who soon after started Pavement, one of the most successful of the 90s indie bands. I like Pavement a lot, on record. I saw them twice live and didn’t think things held up. The tension that made the records strong was lost on stage. But the records are really good. And when David Berman died this week, and I read more about him, I was sorry I hadn’t checked him out sooner. He was a satirist, a romantic of sorts (as satirists often are), and even more shambolic than Pavement. What I wasn’t prepared for when I put on American Water, his 2008 record that is generally considered his masterwork, was how much it felt like Pavement. But I’m not here to figure out where dividing lines are. Malkmus plays and sings on American Water. Pavement was never a hit, but they were selling albums and playing lots of shows at this point. It’s hard not to imagine that Malkmus was suggesting getting a little more dynamic, putting more into the mix, whatever. I don’t know.

What I know is that American Water is a pretty good record, and my favorite parts were those that Malkmus wasn’t singing, wasn’t playing. Berman’s voice is not that of a singer, but his words are those of a lyricist who comes from poetry. They’re good! And the songs aren’t always songs, but they’re useful settings for the words and some guitar solos that can capture you for a moment, and then seem to forget why they’re there. So, trying to figure it out I visited Pitchfork and found a near perfect record review/appreciation by a guy named Mike Powell. It was only written 19 years or so after the elpee came out, but that doesn’t matter. Listen to the album, read this review. I’m not sure how much there is to all of David Berman’s musical career, but this is a great place to start.