"I still take the trash out/Does that make me too normal for you?"
Life is quite hard the day you become a parody of yourself. The one moment of my life I was vain enough to consider myself a "writer" (even though I didn't wear a beret at the time) was when I was obsessed with writing my novel and I was working at the warehouse and a thousand thoughts raced through my mind constantly and I found myself jotting down notes on little pieces of paper and stuffing them in my pockets and when I got home I'd unload them all into a cracked yellow plastic basket and later on to my roommate's (the pharmacist Pistol Pete) Apple computer.
I wasn't writing because I wanted to, I was writing because I needed to (and desperately)- I was bleeding words. So you can imagine how unbearably pretentious that novel became. My most familiar critic has since made the observation that the difference between then and now is I used to be inspired by such things as Love and God and Beauty and now I'm inspired by three-legged cats. Point well taken. "Moderation is a memory."
So I may not be capable of doing it with my words anymore (like I was ever any good at that in the first place dammit) but for awhile I did make it one of my missions in life to introduce as many people as I could to Liz Phair's music. It was the least I could do and of course I've said many times, never let it be said I didn't do the least I could do. Thus I was pleased last summer that when I gave Exile in Guyville to the blue-eyed intern now soon to be a world renowned editor (and the one who God bless her introduced me to Ike Reilly) that the CD has become one of her favorites. Cool beans is all I can say (and oh- also can a guy ever eat too many tomatoes? I ask this 'cuz I planted six tomato plants last spring that are now bearing the results of my haphazard gardening efforts so I'm eating tomatoes morning, noon, and night!)
I went to Liz's concert last Thursday in the stifling over-heated air of the unair-conditioned First Ave with my favorite wordsmith (who I must admit I'm insanely jealous of because of her abilities to write circles around lil old me) and I asked her to go because: a) I knew she was a respectful Liz Phair fan (despite hating the newest CD) and b) because if you're going to listen to songs that you absolutely love (and believe it or not due to my rather nondiscriminating tastes- there aren't that many in my life that qualify) who better to share the experience with than someone who can write ovals and figure of eights around your weeble little mind? C'mon people! Am I the only one who has been tempted to make the jump to Mars seeing it is as close as it is and given the state of this world at this time?! Are you with me or against me?
Did I say I love Liz's songs? Lemme clarify that a bit. I'm in love with Liz's songs. When I left my sheltered little Roseville life for the big world of a precious Macalester education (not exactly like one of them public institutions like Marshall State or St. Cloud State or the University of Duluth) what I was expecting (or was that dreaming?) was to meet my future wife-to-be, a woman who would strum a guitar (or plunk a concertina or know at the very least how to yodel) and play me excerpts from her diary. And while Liz Phair ain't exactly that woman she's the closest I've been exposed to, a familiar facsimile that exists (did I mention when the Teutonic Garden Lover and I were leaving our parking space in the urine soaked Target Center Parking Ramp we got behind a blue American made car that had a bumper sticker that was pro-clone and encouraged all its readers to support multiple lives?).
As for the concert itself let me say that despite my many growing neurosis (my concert partner scolded me that she is keeping me from sinking deeper into the insanity abyss "I think I'm losing my soul," Liz sings in "Only Son"), and despite ending up standing behind a girl with the most shrill voice (the type that could quite adequately take a coney-dog order through a tinny speaker) I quite enjoyed the music. From the efficacious opener of Exile's "6'1"" to the most recent attempt at a hit "Why Can't I?" the show was great fun. "Whip Smart" rocked, "Uncle Alvarez" proved what a great writer Phair is and she sang all her new (and highly criticized) songs with a great deal of passion. One of her new songs "Favorite" that is her singing about the virtues of her favorite piece of underwear somehow was most entertaining while on the new disc, ironically entitled Liz Phair, comes across as someone trying to be, in almost a desperate fashion, one who thinks those paying attention expect her to be. Somehow live it fit in with who she probably really is (in real life!). In other words it was like a favorite piece of underwear one might find one self singing about.
If nothing else she proved in concert that she knows that there is a difference between a stupid pop song and a bad pop song. Even at her simplest, at her most uninspired she can't help herself, Liz just has to be like no one else before.