“I only ask because I’m a real cunt in Spring / You can rent me by the hour.”
And then there was “Dance of the Seven Veils”, the gobsmacking fourth track on Exile in Guyville, and our first taste of Liz Phair’s unparalleled ability to be haughty, naughty, playful, and pernicious all in the same breath. It is also serves as our introduction to Phair’s more abstract tendencies, stringing together erotic and vaguely menacing imagery in deceptive lullaby rhyme. It’s an apt successor to the pseudo-sexual-spiritual interlude “Glory”, but “Veils” seemingly forgets all the gentility of its predecessor; here, rather, Phair is at her wryly seductive best, disingenuously self-flagellating as she voices her demands and desires so her male subject needn’t do the dirty work (and is perhaps is robbed of his own sure to be underwhelming response).
That Phair marries a relatively straightforward plea for her rocker lover to quit being such a bastard (“Johnny my love / Get out of the business / It makes me wanna rough you up so badly”) with overt references to the Salome / John the Baptist beheading myth / Biblical passage / whatever veracious weight you prescribe it (“I have got a bright and shiny platter / And I am gonna get your heavy head”) is testament to the cunning complexities of Phair’s composer mind. Phair cherry-picks her allusions here, making substantial use of sparse ingredients, and sets a peculiar—but purposeful—tone by invoking a provocative cultural signpost and pairing it with what would otherwise be a pedestrian tale of romantic frustration.