This week marks the 20th anniversary of Liz Phair’s landmark debut Exile in Guyville, a record that kicked ass, took names, and set the alternative rock scene ablaze. Critics unanimously adored it, sales (for an indie release in a YouTube-less age) were considerable, and legions of listeners (male and female alike), found themselves dumbfounded and touched at the blistering precision of Phair’s observations and insights into the peaks and valleys of sex, love, success (or lack thereof), and growing up. Like a clairvoyant’s crystal ball, Phair saw all, knew all, and was always transparent—sometimes painfully so.
Guyville also holds the distinction of being one of the most expertly subversive albums of all time, Phair cleverly skewering those emotionally fickle music men who would later join the chorus in singing her praises. On some of the LP’s more cherished tunes, she crassly lamented her desire to be some beautiful, longhaired hipster boy’s “blowjob queen” (“Flower”); masterfully captured the awkwardness of the one-night stand (“Fuck and Run”); and brilliantly revised old-hat domestic mundanity by dropping lines such as “It’s true that I stole your lighter / And it’s also true that I lost the map / But when you said that I wasn’t worth talking to / I had to take your word on that” (“Divorce Song”) or “Take out the garbage on Tuesday nights / Seems like the small things are the only things I’ll fight” (“Gunshy”).