Girly Show: The Oral History of Liz Phair’s ‘Exile In Guyville’
How a suburban Chicago songwriter wandered out of a John Hughes script and recorded one of the decade’s masterpieces
In 1993, no rock record was as divisive as Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville. With her 18-song double-LP debut, Phair pried the lid off her life and sang away secrets. Even though it landed right at the apex of the cultural moment for “Women in Rock” and riot grrrl, Phair was something else. Her feminism was not wrapped up in dogmatic choruses, her rage was articulated in quiet disses tangled up in sublime indie-pop. Guyville was all guile and jangle. Phair dispensed with the innuendo and explained exactly, and explicitly, what she was game for. “Flower” includes these lines: “I want to fuck you like a dog / Take you home and make you like it.”
Even more novel and exciting was the fact that Guyville was, in both form and concept, a rookie’s rogue retort to classic rock: Phair conceived it as a track-by-track response to one of the pinnacles of swaggering musical masculinity, the Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main St. Combined with its literate pop craft, untethered libido, and utter confidence, Guyville was about the most glorious, girly Fuck You ever.