By Greg Kot
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) “Exile” was Phair’s first album, “Blue” Mitchell’s fourth. Both contain the stories of women wrestling out from under lives that men tried to define, and were met with a mixture of acclaim and disdain.
“Will you take me as I am?” Joni Mitchell sang on her ground-breaking 1971 album, “Blue.” There’s a vulnerability in that openness, but also a resolve. Mitchell wasn’t coming from a place of weakness.
The singer never viewed herself as part of a movement, she was not going to be anyone’s figurehead or spokeswoman.
But “Blue” still sounds like a map for the road being traveled by countless women in the #MeToo era.
It also was an album of startling intimacy that helped pave the way for three cassette tapes recorded by Liz Phair under the name “Girly Sound” in 1991-92.
They became the backbone of Phair’s 1993 debut, “Exile in Guyville,” a revered if initially divisive album that’s getting a renewed round of attention on its 25th anniversary.
As good as “Guyville” was, it was the “Girly Sound” tapes, voice and guitar recorded in Phair’s bedroom in the Chicago suburbs, that got the buzz going in the then-dominant Wicker Park rock scene.
This was the “Guyville” that Phair fell into but never quite infiltrated. She wasn’t one of the boys, she didn’t sound anything like any of the cool bands, and she didn’t play endless gigs on Tuesday nights as part of the pay-your-dues hierarchy.
“Girly Sound” critiqued that scene’s cliches and “stupid rules,” and “Guyville” turned them into unnerving and, for a generation of young women who had never heard anything like it, cathartic rock anthems.
Phair’s label, Matador Records, is marking the “Exile in Guyville” anniversary with a box set that includes the original album plus the “Girly Sound” recordings.