1993, Music

Exile in Guyville (1993) by Liz Phair

Many years ago, after hearing way too many times that Exile in Guyville is a song-by-song response to Exile on Main St. I listened to this right around the time I was obsessed with that Stones album. I listened to this once, didn’t hear a song-by-song response, and decided it was one of the most overrated pieces of crap in the alternative era and promptly forgot about it.


Though I was a tween when this came out, I can still imagine the climate in which it was made, in which there is something basically impossible about the idea of an assured female singer-songwriter who can create something of equal value as the post-hardcore and alt-country the men around her were being celebrated for.

Phair’s sense of melody is strong enough to not be undercut by the aesthetic. Her lyrics – even those written from other perspectives, possibly especially those lyrics – reinforce the theme and remind me of PJ Harvey’s (though I prefer Harvey both musically and lyrically).

The aesthetic is, of course, a huge part of the appeal then as now. It’s sparse and let’s Phair’s voice and her lyrics attain centre stage.

I do feel like its importance has been slightly over-stated, but I’m a male who pretends/wishes he was gender-blind, and pretends to only care about the evolution of music as genres, and not about the politics.


(Also, I just like PJ Harvey so much more. So if I was to champion a woman songwriter from the early 1990s who changed what was possible for women in the male-dominated alternative/indie world, it would be her. That of course begs the question, why just one woman?)

All tracks written by Liz Phair.

  1. “6′1″ ” 3:05
  2. “Help Me Mary” 2:16
  3. “Glory” 1:29
  4. “Dance of the Seven Veils” 2:29
  5. “Never Said” 3:16
  6. “Soap Star Joe” 2:44
  7. “Explain It to Me” 3:11
  8. “Canary” 3:19
  9. “Mesmerizing” 3:55
  10. “Fuck and Run” 3:07
  11. “Girls! Girls! Girls!” 2:20
  12. “Divorce Song” 3:20
  13. “Shatter” 5:28
  14. “Flower” 2:03
  15. “Johnny Sunshine” 3:27
  16. “Gunshy” 3:15
  17. “Stratford-on-Guy” 2:59
  18. “Strange Loop” 3:57
  • Liz Phair – guitar, piano (“Canary”), vocals, hand claps (“Mesmerizing”)
  • Casey Rice – lead guitar (“Mesmerizing”, “Divorce Song”), cymbal (“Shatter”), background vocals, hand clapping (“Mesmerizing”)
  • Brad Wood – bass and drums (various songs), organ (“Glory”, “Mesmerizing”), synthesizer, (“Explain It to Me”), percussion, bongos (“Explain It to Me”), tambourine and shaker (“6′1″”), maracas and hand claps (“Mesmerizing”), background vocals, vocals (“Say You”), drones and feedback (“Shatter”), “sick guitar” (“Gunshy”), guitar (“Say You”)
  • Tony Marlotti – bass (“Johnny Sunshine”, “Say You”), vocals (“Say You”)
  • John Casey – harmonica (“Soap Star Joe”, “Divorce Song”)
  • Tutti Jackson – backing vocals (“Soap Star Joe”)

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