On June 24th, one of Chicago's most beloved artists is returning to her roots, literally & figuratively. Liz Phair is coming back home for a huge concert and an expanded re-issue of her out-of-print debut CD.
Over time, Liz Phair's first album, "Exile In Guyville," has been called one of the most influential and best albums of all time. When it was released in June of 1993, it was a shot of adrenalin to most every music critic in the western world and to music fans who "got it." When the year-end music polls came out that year, it was near or at the top of close to every list. It was adored on the WXRT Listener Poll. Spin Magazine and The Village Voice had it at number one. Spin Magazine later ranked the album at #15 in its "100 Greatest Albums, 1985-2005." VH1 ranked "Exile" at #96 in its list of the "Greatest Albums Of All-Time" and Rolling Stone ranked it at #328 in its list of the "500 Greatest Albums Of All-Time." In 1993 and 1994, you couldn't throw a rock without hitting a critic raving about this audio masterpiece.
Liz Phair has always claimed that "Exile in Guyville" was a song-by-song response to the Rolling Stones' own masterpiece album, "Exile On Main Street," but if you play both albums, track-by-track, side-by-side, it's pretty hard to see Phair's connection to the Stones' work. Regardless of her motivation and muse behind the songs, the album's stark & personal lyrics and unpolished sound were a breath of fresh air that seemed to blow in from the future, past & present, all at the same time.
For a very short time in the early 90's, Chicago was a musical Mecca, with many artists getting record deals and national exposure, the largest of which were The Smashing Pumpkins. Three acts emerged from Chicago's Wicker Park area at that time: Liz Phair, Material Issue and the "Kings of Chicago," Urge Overkill. All of these artists would often hang together socially & professionally. It was Urge Overkill's Nash Kato that coined the expression "Guyville" for his outlook at Wicker Park's seemingly lack of quality women. He also was the photographer for the now-famous album cover for "Exile In Guyville." The same album cover that had every guy looking at it wondering "Is that what I think it is???", while staring intently at the lower right corner with a grin on their face.
The album has been out of print for a little while, but it is coming back, bigger & better than ever. Earlier this year, Liz Phair signed a contract with ATO Records. She is working on a new album to be released by ATO by the end of this year, but in the meantime, the label is going to remaster & reissue "Exile" in a deluxe package that will feature a 1 hour DVD and 4 bonus tracks: "Wild Thing" (loosely based on the old Troggs' hit, but not a true cover song), "Ant In America," "Say You," and an brief guitar instrumental of Liz's. All of these bonus tracks have been widely heard by fans on bootlegs, but are now being cleaned up, with the heavy tape-hiss removed & officially released. The classic album will also be released on a limited-edition vinyl, and finally, digitally. This all happens on June 24th -- 15 years and 2 days since the original release date.
Something else happens on June 24th, as well. Liz Phair will return to Chicago and perform "Exile In Guyville" in its entirety at the Vic Theater (3145 N. Sheffield) that evening. (Yes... That means she'll be doing "Flower," too!) Tickets are $24 and went on sale this morning via Ticketmaster. They won't last long, though, as this is expected to be one of the hottest tickets in town, so grab 'em now!
For those who didn't like Liz Phair's more polished sound on her last 2 albums and missed the more "raw" early material, this is a very welcome return.
Here is a YouTube video of "Never Said," her hit from her debut album -- an MTV music video that was mostly shot in Chicago & the northern suburbs: