Friday, November 11, 2011

(today's zomby) AND IT'S A LIZ PHAIR KIND OF DAY...

Ah, Nevada... America's navel, forever collecting the bellybutton lint of society.

Fun fact! Each Zomby cartoon takes about a minute (or less) to write but about 20 minutes to "compose" in Microsoft Paint. It used to take much less time, but the Houston Chronicle website -- my reliable source for nice black-and-white Ziggy cartoons -- started posting grainier, lower-quality scans on its comics page a few months ago, so I can't just click on Ziggy and turn him gray anymore. I have to "paint" him gray, pixel by tedious pixel.

And speaking of the creative process:

Liz Phair at her peak.

This rather bleak, late fall day has put me in the mood for Liz Phair.

The music you're supposed to love the most is whatever was popular while you were in high school. That's not true in my case. The music of the 1990s does not resonate very strongly with me in 2011. I have no real desire to revisit New Jack Swing, for instance, and I largely skipped out on the "alternative rock" boom. I don't have any real nostalgia for that "college rock" stuff, which mostly seemed mopey and defeatist to me. Give me Chuck Berry or Little Richard over grunge any day! But I do make occasional exceptions.

I'm not sure exactly why Liz Phair caught me off-guard in 1994 with her album Exile in Guyville. It was as mopey and defeatist as most of the music I was so actively avoiding back then. But something about the album's lead-off single, "Never Said," must have grabbed me enough to make me go buy the CD, and the entire Exile album remains a favorite of mine today. This will sound perverse, but I get the same feeling from listening to Exile in Guyville as I get from reading Peanuts. Liz Phair's music is about misery, depression, and cynicism, but it doesn't come off as miserable, depressing, or cynical somehow. It's a winning kind of glumness. It's exuberant misery, if you will. I like to think that Exile on Guyville is the album that the Peanuts kids would be listening to if they were jaded college students experimenting with sex and drugs for the first time in their lives. I'm sure that the album would be in the CD collection that Peppermint Patty and Marcie must share, and there's a particular line from "Never Said" which sounds like it could have come directly from my favorite Peanuts character, Lucy Van Pelt: "So don't look at me sideways. Don't even look me straight on."

Lucy Van Pelt, a budding Liz Phair fan

Anyway, here's "Never Said." Hope you enjoy it:

Of course, for a teenage me, Exile in Guyville was also an introduction to a world of sexual frankness which I had not previously known, especially not in music. Here is the album's best and probably best-known track. This song garnered a lot of attention for its casual use of profanities, but there's a sweet, wounded romanticism in it, too. When she sings, "I want all that stupid old shit, like letters and sodas," Liz Phair really does sound like the female Charlie Brown of rock.

Unfortunately, I -- and many others -- didn't really keep up with Liz Phair's career. Certainly, by the time she put out a record called whitechocolatespaceegg, I had long since tuned out. Her recent, much poppier music has gotten embarrassingly bad reviews, even from such notoriously softball sources as Rolling Stone. But I do have a soft spot for some of Liz's post-Exile work, like the title track from her little-loved sophomore album:

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