Release Date: Oct 19, 2010
Record label: Rocket Science
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
There are maybe three main ways to understand Funstyle, the most obvious one being the very real possibility that Liz Phair just doesn’t give a fuck anymore. After a decade of withering reviews, plummeting sales, and a thorough razing of her hard-earned 90s cred, the aging pop mom has been left with no label, no management, and none too many fans. Which explains why this album recently appeared without warning on her (very homespun) website, why it’s being hawked for just six bucks, why the album art is a screencap of Phair’s desktop, and why the tracks aren’t even in the right damn order when you crank ’em through your MP3 machine.
Advice for listening to Liz Phair’s double CD Funstyle/Girlysound is similar to what you’d hear pre-tattoo: It’s gonna be painful, but worth it in the end. That’s because Funstyle’s what would happen if M.I.A. joined a musical sequence on Saved by the Bell—Phair’s bhangra rap isn’t as bad as her Beck-era funk or phrases like “penis colada,” though tracks like “Satisfied” are pleasant but gritless.
No other ‘90s indie rocker faced such scorn as Liz Phair for turning mainstream. The wrath was vicious and sustained, perhaps because Phair decided to go all-in, courting a crossover audience who'd never even heard of Exile in Guyville, going so far as having the Matrix collaborate on her eponymous 2003 album -- a sell-out that sold only modestly and alienated scores of fans who had celebrated her perhaps a bit too vocally ten years earlier. Liz Phair caused a commotion but its placid, 2005 sequel Somebody’s Miracle was so uneventful it passed largely unnoticed.
A lot of purposefully cruel articles and reviews have been written about Liz Phair in the past 13 years. What’s really amazing about this ongoing, and never-ending, dialogue surrounding her albums, is the vehement obsession so many critics have in trying to prove that her music is really not worth wasting your time on—even though they waste their time on to it. That is why this reviewer is going out on a limb and saying that her languorously self-released sixth album, Funstyle, is actually quite good.
July 3rd was Independence Day for former indie queen Liz Phair, when she self-released her new album, Funstyle, on her official website without any promotion. Phair was dropped from Capitol Records after Somebody’s Miracle, the snoozer of a follow-up to her unfairly maligned 2003 self-titled album, became her least successful album to date. Funstyle is, in many ways, a return to her roots, its DIY vibe harking back to the ethos, if not the sound, of 1993’s landmark Exile in Guyville.
Sometime over the Fourth of July weekend, Liz Phair's site announced the digital availability of her sixth album, which nobody knew was coming. The track streaming at her site, "Bollywood", is bhangra-rap about how she ended up doing TV scores out of broke desperation, featuring a bunch of "funny" pitch-altered voices imitating music-biz gladhanders ripping her off. It's one of Funstyle's four key tracks, all in a similar prefab-beats-and-wacky-voices vein; another is "U Hate It", a patchwork thing (with fake Prince harmonies) about how much everybody's going to think her record sucks, unless it's a hit, in which case they'll pretend they all loved her in the first place and her success was their doing.
Chicago's pottymouthed girl has come a long way since her Exile in Guyville, and she's lost acolytes on the road. She may not find them falling into line with this formerly Web-only release and its gleefully helter-skelter barrage of bhangra, blues, and bile toward the music industry. The old Phair is still there: Scrape the overproduced garnish off "You Should Know Me," and it's as sweetly laden with Beatles love as any bite from her Whitechocolatespaceegg era.
Bob Dylan No wonder that upstart from the hinterlands — Minnesota! — astonished the Greenwich Village folkies. He had learned profound lessons from the blues, Appalachian ballads, gospel, pop and agitprop. His voice had a young man’s vigor and an older man’s scars and snarls. He could ….