Music

Liz Phair: Somebody's Miracle

David Bernard

Liz returns from her experiment in mainstream pop with another mainstream pop record. She's as catchy and as banal as ever.


Liz Phair

Somebody's Miracle

Label: Capitol
US Release Date: 2005-10-04
UK Release Date: 2005-10-17
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

CD cover artwork rarely accurately recreates the music contained on the disc. Often the expressionist paintings and fuzzy photography are simply statements as artistic as the music itself. Every once in a while, a CD will (gasp!) feature a picture of the artist on the front. This introduces the artist to his/her audience and puts a face with a name. More established artists tend to shy away from this practice, as evidenced by Radiohead's complete lack of existence, at least art work wise, since The Bends. Thank God for Liz Phair. She bucks the trend by placing her face on the cover of Somebody's Miracle. In fact, each of her last two CDs has explained the music simply through its use of cover art.

Liz Phair was her attempt at mainstream success. After years without a record, Liz decided to show how youthful she remained and how pertinent she was to the current music scene. In order to show that, Liz spread her legs with only a guitar blocking the view of her crotch. It foreshadowed the whoring of her sound to commercial radio stations and weepy chick flick soundtracks, as well as her last ditch effort at shocking a stuffy nation (Exhibit A: "H.W.C.", which stands for hot white cum).

Somebody's Miracle finds Liz returning to form, or at least a diluted form of herself. Just look at the artwork. It features a close-up headshot, as if to indicate the rejection of the last album's studio sheen (sorry, Liz, I ain't buying it). More importantly it appears to by a photocopy of a photocopy. The black and white image is grainy and pixilated. Liz Phair's music on Somebody's Miracle reflects her current image: a bad copy of a bad copy. No longer is she trying to be shocking with "H.W.C." or spread legs. She's reserved and proper. And God dammit if that stance isn't the most boring fucking thing in the world.

I miss the Liz Phair of old, the one who seemed like she'd ask you over to meet her parents, then give you a blow job in the coat closet. And now that Liz is all grown up with a kid of her own, her life is one giant snooze fest. Unlike most people, Whitechocolatespaceegg was my introduction to Liz, and it's also a fine album. The studio polish that many critics attacked works well with the music because it's varied, and the songs are good. They're frequently inventive and witty. But when that studio polish has few good songs behind it, as on Somebody's Miracle, we're left with a void much deeper than is possible on lo-fi recordings.

The opener, "Leap of Innocence", has an awful verse melody. It's meandering and strained, and Liz weakly goes into her falsetto. But the chorus is a catchy pop statement, as catchy as anything she's ever written. This proves the overarching theme: frequent moments of crap followed by calculated/inspired pop bliss. "Wind and the Mountain" is repetitive but expertly crafted. That only pertains to the verse. The chorus is as bloody awful as the verse of "Leap of Innocence". "Stars and Planets" has its relative charm, but the word "shine" is repeated 54 times. Christ! The title track is pure schmaltz with a wah-wah guitar and undergraduate love poetry lyrics. The verse of "Lazy Dreamer" is as adventurous as Liz gets with rhythm (it's still 4/4 time, but the snare isn't always struck on two and four!). And, of course, the first single, "Everything to Me", is a terrible exercise is excess. That song could fit in with any adult contemporary genre, be it pop, rock, or country.

The CD is not all bad, and it's certainly not the complete disaster some critics want it to be. Sometimes Liz squeezes some life out of the muse, but those occasions are rare. Often the pop goodness overcomes common sense, the same way a song like "Toxic" can convert even the most grizzled pop music haters. The verse of "Count on My Love" is remarkably similar to The Postal Service's "Such Great Heights". The chorus is almost as killer, too. Then, the music drops out after the bridge (a listless bridge at that) to leave a beautiful vocal chrous. If you can remember to ignore the lyrics, "You can count on my love/ An umbrella when it's raining/ When you feel your hope is fading", you're in for glossy studio magic.

If you have few discriminating tastes and cannot read or speak English, this album might be your favorite pop record this fall. Liz could have even have turned the record into a keeper if she had limited the track list to ten songs and utilized a more discerning producer. As it stands, fans will have to wait a few more years before another possible Exile in Guyville Part Two. Guess what guys, it's never going to happen.

4

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.

Music

Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum
Music

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Music

Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.

Music

Godcaster Make the Psych/Funk/Hard Rock Debut of the Year

Godcaster's Long Haired Locusts is a swirling, sloppy mess of guitars, drums, flutes, synths, and apparently whatever else the band had on hand in their Philly basement. It's a highly entertaining and listenable album.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.