Date Aired
October 22, 2020
Running Time
Previous review
Next review

Todd: Today's episode is brought to you by Express VPN. Friends, have you ever had the urge to watch...

Clip of...

Todd (VO): ...the insane video for "My Camera Never Lies" by the obscure '80s band, Bucks Fizz? Only to find out that you [screenshot from YouTube showing that the video is...] can't 'cause it's blocked in the United States?

Todd: I think we've all been there. Fortunately, that's why I use [clip of ad for...] Express VPN, which not only hides my IP address from whatever prying eyes might be up in my biz, [clip of "My Camera Never Lies"] but also lets me watch all the videos that YouTube has blocked, [shot of Todd's desktop with window showing Express VPN connecting to YouTube] 'cause by God, it's my right to watch whatever I want!

Bucks Fizz: Nothing worth lying for

Todd (VO): That's more like it. 'Cause if you can't watch Bucks Fizz...

Todd: else are you being discriminated against? What are these foreign countries hiding from us? [shot of Express VPN connecting to...] What are they watching on their Netflix that we can't watch on ours?! [back to Todd's desktop] Well, get on Express VPN instead of the UK, and you can be binging American Idol, America's Got Talent, and all sorts of other shows they've got hidden and stashed over there. Who knows? Well, if you wanna know, get Express VPN. Find out how you can get [link for Express VPN discount flashes below Todd] three months free by clicking the link in the description box. Alright, alright. And now on with the show.

Announcer: And now, for our feature presentation!

Video for Liz Phair - "Why Can't I?" starts

Todd (VO): I get a lot of requests for Trainwreckords. I'm gonna do my best to get all of them eventually, but there is one request I have gotten more than any for this show.

Todd: One whose [image of Liz Phair performance videos with caption: "Who allowed this to happen!?!"] disastrous perception still lives in notoriety seventeen years later. And that is, of course, [image of CD for...] Liz Phair by Liz Phair. Her reputation-destroying fourth album from 2003.

Clip of MuchMusic interview

George Stromboulopoulos: What happened to Liz Phair?

Hannah Sung: Liz Phair changed.

Clip of "Why Can't I?"

Liz Phair: Why can't I breathe

Todd (VO): It's a little weird if you think about it. Trainwreckords is a show about infamous bombs.

Todd: I don't usually get requests for an artist's highest charting record that produced their biggest hits!

Clip of Liz Phair - "Extraordinary"

Liz: I am extraordinary

Todd (VO): Maybe you had to be there. I was, and trust me, I have rarely [screenshot of blog post titled "Could the new Liz Phair be any worse"] seen an album get such a violently negative reaction.

Video for Liz Phair - "Never Said"

Before this record, Liz Phair had been an indie darling. Her debut album [image of the cover of...] Exile in Guyville was one of the most acclaimed records of the '90s, with its blunt, confessional lyrics and unpolished vocals.

Clip of Liz Phair - "Fuck and Run" (1995 live performance)

Liz: I'm gonna spend another year alone

It's fuck and run...

Todd (VO): Through the '90s, she was an indie-rock goddess, [clip of Liz Phair - "Supernova"] even if she never had much chart success. She felt like someone you could know personally by listening to her music. [image of Liz Phair on the cover of Rolling Stone] The critics just adored her.

Video for "Why Can't I?"

And it seemed like she threw out everything distinctive about herself [images of The Matrix] on that fourth album, which was made by hitmaking super-producers The Matrix, [clips of "The Remedy (I Won't Worry)" by...] the same people who had built giant hits for the likes of Jason Mraz [...and "Complicated" by...] and Avril Lavigne.

Avril Lavigne: Why'd you have to go and make things so complicated?

Todd: To put that in modern terms, [clips of "Geyser" by...] it'd be kind of like if the next Mitski album [...and a live performance from...] was produced by Marshmello.

Clip of the same interview from earlier

Hannah: A lot of the indie kids were like "What happened?"

George: She really changed.

Hannah: She really, really did. This new album's, like, the antithesis of everything we knew about Liz.

Clip of interview with Liz Phair

Todd (VO): Whatever chart success that record had was completely overshadowed by cries of betrayal from the longtime fans. [screenshot of "Liz Phair" review from...] Pitchfork gave it a rare 0.0 score. [clip of interview with Liz Phair] To this day, it's remembered as one of the most disastrous attempts at selling out in rock history.

Todd: Honestly, [pause] I think that album's pretty decent.

Video for "Why Can't I?"

Todd (VO): The backlash always seemed really overblown and kind of ridiculous to me.

Todd: So, no. I'm not covering it for this show. [beat] But if I wanted to, I certainly could!

Clip of Liz Phair live TV performance

Todd (VO): The spectacle of alt-rock royalty turning teen pop at age 36 was deeply alienating to all her old fans, and she never really won them back.

Todd: It's not like she made a whole bunch of new fans either, she didn't become the next Nelly Furtado or anything.

Video for "Why Can't I?"

Todd (VO): She got one radio hit out of it and a second song that got a few plays here and there. [image of Billboard chart with Liz Phair at...] She made it to #27 on the album charts. That's a...

Todd: ...pretty paltry take, considering all she sacrificed to get there. You can very justifiably say that this record ruined her career.

Clip of Liz Phair - "Everything To Me"

Liz: Do you really know me

Todd (VO): If I wanted to, I could also easily cover her [shot of album cover for...] next album, 2005's Somebody's Miracle, which shifted to a more "mature" ["boring"] sound, and earned neither cred nor hits. It was her worst selling LP and was swiftly forgotten by everyone, confirming the end of her relevance in any sphere of music.

Todd: But we're not looking at either of those. Instead, I wanna take you...

Clip of CBS News story on Independence Day celebration

Todd (VO): ...five years later, to July 4th weekend, 2010. [clips of Kristen Stewart red carpet interview...] The third Twilight movie hits theaters, [...ESPN story about...] Joey Chestnut wins his fourth consecutive hot dog eating championship, [...and image of...] and indie legend Liz Phair...

Todd: ...with no buildup whatsoever, [screenshots of Liz Phair's website] suddenly puts up her entire next album, Funstyle, on what can only barely be called her website, for a mere $5.99.

Clip of Liz Phair live performance

Todd (VO): Accompanying the album was the following message from Liz, [screenshot of the message] which reads: "You were never supposed to hear these songs. These songs lost me my management, my record deal and a lot of nights of sleep. Yes, I rapped one of them."

Todd leans back in shock

Todd (VO): "Yes, I rapped one of them. I'm as surprised as you are. But here's the thing you need to know about these songs and the ones coming next: [Todd zooms in on...] These are all me." [clip of Liz Phair - "And He Slayed Her"] Love them, or hate them, but don't mistake them for anything other than an entirely personal, untethered-from-the-machine, free for all view of the world, refracted through my own crazy lens."

Todd: Well. That's what you wanted, right? All you critics calling her a sellout.

Clip of Liz Phair live performance

Todd (VO): No more polished mainstream pop. Here is the pure, uncommercialized Liz Phair that you wanted.

Todd: Here is her management losing, record deal ending...

Todd (VO): ...completely uncompromised vision: Funstyle.

Audio clip of Liz Phair - "Bollywood"

(NOTE: All audio clips are played over a looped clip of Liz Phair unless otherwise specified.)

Liz: I was tripping, looking at my portfolio

Wondering how I was gonna make enough dough, you know

Todd: Yup, that's her rapping, alright. Holy fuck, this is Trainwreckords.

Trainwreckords intro followed by album cover for Funstyle

Clip of Liz Phair interview

Liz: It's kind of rock, pop, folk, feminism. Rap.

Todd (VO): In 2010, even with no record label or management, Liz Phair still had enough clout that a new record would get a decent amount of attention.

Todd: And at the time, releasing an album online was kind of a power move.

Montage clips of Radiohead - "Jigsaw Falling Into Place"; Nine Inch Nails performing "Discipline" at Live at Rehearsals; and Radiohead interview

Todd (VO): Radiohead had done it, Nine Inch Nails had done it. It was basically them saying that they'd built such a devoted, reliable following that they didn't even need the machinery of the label promoting them anymore.

Todd: So, a lot of people were actually pretty interested in this bold new move by Liz Phair. [screenshots of headlines about Funstyle] And since that wasn't that long ago, you can still find those old blogs and clock people's instant responses. And yeah, the response was pretty overwhelming. [screenshots of people saying things along the lines of...] "What the fucking fuck!?" They were reacting to the first single "Bollywood," [screenshot of headline "Liz Phair raps, goes 'Bollywood' on new song"] which was downloadable for free. So, what's say I just dispense with the buildup and just play it for you now. Here we are. Here is how people were introduced to the new Liz Phair album.

Audio clip of Liz Phair - "Bollywood"

Liz: I was trippin' lookin' at my portfolio

Wonderin' how I was gonna make enough dough, you know

Called up a friend who wrote for One Tree Hill and Jericho

He had a job for me, and check it, with a four-letter company

Get it on, get it on

Todd: Uhhhhhhh...

Liz: I reached my representative, who pulled out the contract

From the file cabinet

On microfiche

Todd (VO): Okay, so...this is her rapping. About her record contract. Over some kind of...

Todd: ...Bollywood Bhangra beat?

Liz: Tell you how it's done here in the Hollywood

Maybe you was thinkin' you was in the Bollywood

Todd: Holy God, what does she think she's doing?!

Audio clip of "Bollywood" continues over a clip of a Bollywood movie

Liz: Listen here, my dear little Roni

Don't you give me no phoney-baloney

Todd (VO): Yeah, I read all those initial responses, and more than one commenter was reminded of [clip of...] Madonna's "American Life" rap.

Madonna: I'm drinking a soy latte

I get a double shot-ay

It goes right through my body

I have no idea how people still even remembered that disaster, but I guess there was just nothing else to compare it to.

Audio clip of "Bollywood" continues over a clip of a Bollywood movie

Label Executive: Ha! Hey look, Liz we see you as a commodity

Liz: Oh shit, you're twenty years older

Still hot, but gettin' a lot colder

Todd (VO): This is clearly ironic, but that doesn't make it better.

Todd: Arguably, it makes it worse.

Video for M.I.A. - "Paper Planes"

Todd (VO): A lot of people speculated that it was a parody of M.I.A. [images of album covers for Funstyle...] It even had computer-vomit cover art like [...and "Maya" by...] M.I.A. had on her last album.

Todd: I-I'll just say it. If Liz released this today, it would probably get her cancelled.

Audio clip of "Bollywood"

Todd (VO): Like, there's just something about a forty-something white mom who thinks that rapping badly is the height of hilarity. That's just beyond all scope of good taste.

Todd: Also, what the fuck is she even rapping about!?

Liz: I got a proposition for ya

How 'bout you let me keep my profits as a scorer

Record sales are shrinkin', I'm gettin' poorer

Todd: Okay, so I guess you need to know what was going on in Liz Phair's life before this record.

Clip of another Liz Phair interview

Todd (VO): Somebody's Miracle flopped in 2005, she got dropped from her label, and needing cash she turned to scoring and composing. [clips of Jonny Greenwood at the Academy Awards red carpet...] Again, like Radiohead and [...and Trent Reznor Gone Girl interview] Nine Inch Nails. But, in her case...

Todd: ...not for, like, big artsy prestige movies.

Clip of opening for 90210

Todd (VO): Yeah, she was making background music for crappy TV shows you never heard of like, Swingtown, or... [clips of openings for In Plain Sight...] I-I don't know what this is. I mean, it was kind of a surprising move. I always thought of her more as a songwriter than a composer. [...and The 100] But she actually did that for a while. Uh, it seems to have gone pretty well for her. And, um...

Todd: [pause] You know, now that I say all this aloud, I realize it's actually not very interesting. I can't imagine why you'd care, but "Bollywood" kind of assumes that you do.

Clip of "Bollywood"

Liz: How 'bout you let me keep my profits as a scorer?

Record sales are shrinkin', I'm gettin' poorer

Todd (VO): I mean, her time as a TV composer is very important to this album. That's what Funstyle comes from. Apparently, when you're locked in a studio trying to write a billion snips of background music for some stupid CW show...

Todd: go a little nuts.

Todd (VO): So her and her writing partner would get stupid and make goofy tracks like this. Recording...

Todd: ...[air quote] "funstyle"...

Todd (VO): what they used to call these goof-off sessions.

Todd: And all I can say is...[shrugs] "I'm sure it was fun for you, Liz."

Todd (VO): But what use could this have for someone who isn't her? Even her mega-fans can't have been this invested in the ins and outs of her contract!

Liz: Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na

Todd: Okay, so that was horrendous! And I know what you're asking. "Is that the entire album? [album cover for Funstyle] Are there any actual songs on this album, or is it all like [image of Liz Phair posing like Iggy Azalea] that?!" Okay, don't worry. No, it's mostly normal songs; "Bollywood" is not really a representative track. It's not like the whole album sounds like that. [pause] But way too much of the album does sound like that.

Shot of Billboard article: "Liz Phair Brings Her 'Funstyle' to New Album, New Label"

Todd (VO): A few months after she dropped the album on her website, she actually did get an actual, very small record label to put it out on a physical disc. [image of Funstyle CD] Didn't do anything to turn the album's reception around, know, at least it had real cover art now. [Todd scrolls down the tracklist] They also packaged it with a bonus disc of early demos, which is probably what most people bought it for. But hey, now you had a whole new album full of new Liz Phair music. Might as well check that out, too.

Todd: So, you pop it in the old stereo system, you hit play, and this is the first thing you hear.

Audio for "Smoke" plays over looped Liz Phair clip

Todd (VO): Okay, well that's new.

Todd: I mean, I guess it's kinda like a Tori Amos thing she's got.

Label Executive: Hey, Liz, what's in the box?

What's in the box?

What's in the box?

Liz (pitch-shifted): It's my little voice of self-doubt.

Todd: [sighs] Okay, more funny voices.

Label Executive: Liz, ATO will never put this out! You won't be washing dishes in this town!

It's career suicide!

Todd (VO): More shit about her career?

Todd: Really?!

Liz: Let's smoke all night, let's smoke all night

Todd (VO): Okay, yeah. This is also going way off the rails.

Todd: You know what? Why don't we do some more background?

Clip of Liz Phair interview

Todd (VO): After her fifth album flopped, Liz Phair left Capitol Records and in 2008, she signed with a [logo for...] fairly big indie label, ATO Records. [clip of Dave Matthews Band live performance] That's Dave Matthews' label. Dave plays guitar on a few songs on the album, but it didn't work out there either. Hence her having to put out the album alone.

Todd: Pitchfork, in yet another in an [shot of Pitchfork review of Funstyle showing a 2.6 score] increasing string of negative reviews, speculated that this was all intentional. It must be some kind of self-sabotaging troll album like... [album covers for...] Bob Dylan's Self Portrait or Eminem's Encore. Just a giant "Fuck you" to the critics, the label, the over-demanding fans, everybody.

Todd (VO): 'Cause after all, these songs are quote, [shot of highlighted quote from Pitchfork review] "...horrible on just about every conceivable level, and there's no way Phair can't know it."

Todd: Here's the thing, though. She honestly didn't know it.

Todd (VO): Not at first, at least. When she first turned in "Bollywood" to her bosses...

Todd: ...she thought they'd eat this up.

Audio from 2010 WFDU radio interview plays over Funstyle cover

Liz: I don't know what I expected, like maybe they'd be like, "Ha ha, that was cool, that's neat..." or I think what I'd hoped was that they'd be like, "You're on to something. This is a totally new art form," you know?

Todd: Really? This?!

Liz: And they were icy, they were just absolutely appalled. I think in retrospect, there may have been some part of their business that was tied up in the business that I was slamming.

Radio Host: Right, right. In the lyrics.

Liz: There may have been some, like, monetary interest that was threatened.

Todd (VO): No, I think they genuinely didn't like it, Liz!

Todd: It wasn't that they were scared of pissing off whoever that song was about! It's just actually really bad!

Todd (VO): But instead of reversing course, she doubled down on it and just kept making more of these until she lost her contract and her agent!

Todd: She stuck to her guns. [pause] It's kind of admirable, I guess. But also insane!

Clip of Liz Phair performance

Todd (VO): Okay well, after you've gotten through those first "funstyle" two tracks, you'll get to your first normal song. In fact, the solid majority of the album is normal songs.

Todd: But I'll be honest, I had to listen to this album five times before I even noticed them.

Audio for "Satisfied" plays over another live performance

Liz: You've got the world at your feet

Todd (VO): Here's one of the better songs, "Satisfied". It' know, it's warm. Friendly amiable track. It's alright!

Todd: [shrugs] Look. Okay, let's go back to the '03 album.

Clip of "Why Can't I?"

Liz: What if this is just the beginning?

We're already wet and we're gonna go swimming

Todd (VO): Liz Phair self-titled is fine. It's a perfectly acceptable pop rock record. In a lot of parts, it's actually pretty good.

Todd: At the time, there was a growing critical movement called, [Todd's voice echoes as he says...] poptimism, [normal] that would quickly overwhelm the discourse.

Todd (VO): Critics started becoming more receptive of pop. If this album had come out even just a year later, the backlash probably wouldn't have been so bad.

Todd: These days, liking that album isn't even controversial anymore.

Clip of early 2000s Liz Phair interview

Todd (VO): Liz, for what it's worth, stands by it; but she must have been burnt by the response because she's seemed really unsure of her direction ever since.

Video for "Everything to Me"

The following album, Somebody's Miracle, she called that one a "fucking compromised disaster," which it is.

Todd: And I hate to say it, but that's what the un-funstyle tracks on Funstyle sound like to me.

Todd (VO): It doesn't have the raw lyrics and music of her debut, it doesn't have the catchy pop gloss of the self-titled. I can't really tell you why they exist. She seems way more interested in the goof tracks.

Todd: There are four funstyle tracks on Funstyle. That's out of eleven songs, so less than half. [pause] A bit more than a third. [shrugs]

Todd (VO): They just overwhelm the rest of the album. Like, here's one of the few songs from that album she seems to have performed live. It's one of the normal ones, "Oh, Bangladesh".

Clip of Liz Phair performing "Oh, Bangladesh"

Liz: Oh, Bangladesh

Which...considering her [images of Bollywood dancers...] take on Bollywood, [...and a map of...] maybe leave Bangladesh alone.

Todd: But it's not like that. It's just another not quite finished-sounding rock song.

Todd (VO): I guess it's about sex. It's there. It's alright.

Todd: You are just absolutely not gonna remember it, though. Not compared to, [shot of Funstyle tracklist with track circled in red] "Beat Is Up".

Audio for "Beat Is Up" plays over looped clip

Guru: The trick to happiness

Is to ignore anything negative you might feel about yourself

That people don't really like you that much

Todd: Man, Liz. What did India do to you?

Liz: I like to get my coffee

With all the little frothy things on the side

And I like to put in those little sticks

Guru: The trick to freedom...

Todd: Okay. "Beat Is Up" is a track where you hear an [image of movie poster for The Love Guru] Indian guru dispensing garbage new-age self-help advice. And in between, Liz does an impression of a brainless Midwestern mom who presumably listens to this crap.

Audio for "Beat Is Up" plays over clip from The Love Guru

Guru: People like positive people

Positivity makes good things happen

Clip of looped live performance

Liz: My husband doesn't let me buy those tabloid magazines

'Cause he says that it makes me fight with him more

Todd (VO): I understand that this is a "satire", and I get what it's making fun of.

Todd: I just don't really get why?

Liz: What's the beat, the beat is up, ah

What's the beat, the beat is up, ah

Todd (VO): It's not really good music, and as far as comedy material goes, it's really worn out. I...

Todd: ...don't see what sport there is in it.

Liz: I don't want them growing up thinking

That everything's just gonna be handed to them

They're gonna have to work their asses off just like I did

Todd: Wh-what's the point of this bit? Is-is this someone you know, Liz? A family member you don't like? "Take that, Deirdre!" [throws hands up in confusion]

Clip of live performance

Todd (VO): It goes without saying that this didn't get any radio play or anything since it was released with no label. [clip of "And He Slayed Her"] However, there is one music video for it. Bizarrely, it was released in [shot of Funstyle Wikipedia article with "And He Slayed Her" circled in red] 2012, two years after the album came out. That's an extremely strange delay, but fine. Whatever. The video was for the song, "And He Slayed Her".

Todd: [beat; stops himself in thought] Okay, I'll bite. Who's Andy Slater? [Todd scrolls through online bio of...] Andy Slater was...the head of Capitol Records when she was there. [Todd clicks on and scrolls through Baltimore Sun article about Liz] Okay, uh...apparently, they didn't really get along; he was the one that forced those skimpy photoshoots on her, he refused to release videos unless she did things his way. Boy, he sounds like a real dick. But I-I had to look all that up. Is anyone gonna get this?

Clip of "And He Slayed Her"

Liz: Ding-dong, the witch is dead

Come out of your house, uncover your head

Todd (VO): Okay, there's the video. [referring to man tied up in Liz's trunk] I think that's supposed to be Andy.

Todd: You know, "Bollywood" was about how she needed money, but...

Todd (VO): ...there's no way a record label paid for this video, right? No one drops money like this to promote a two-year old dead record. I think she produced this herself just to re-enact this revenge fantasy, [pause] uh,'s not like anyone saw this, so I don't know how burnt Andy was about it.

Todd: As for the song itself...

Liz: Ding-dong, the witch is dead

Come out of your house, uncover your head

Todd: [shrugs] Look, as early as 1998, people had started complaining that Liz Phair was becoming the poor man's Sheryl Crow. Well...[shrugs again]

Liz: Hanged himself on rock 'n' roll

Clip of Sheryl Crow - "Steve McQueen"

Sheryl Crow: I wanna rock and roll this party

I still wanna have some fun

Like Steve McQueen

Todd (VO): Yeah, it's basically a weaker Sheryl Crow single. [clip of "And He Slayed Her"] She's an indie rocker. This type of ass kicking rock 'n roller is not her wheelhouse. She's never had that kind of voice or conviction.

Todd: [pause] Meh.

Audio for "Miss September plays over live performance

Liz: So if you miss how we were in September

Todd (VO): There are songs on here I think are...pretty nice. Because I'm me, I gravitated toward the poppier songs like, "Miss September" and "Satisfied".

Liz: Because I've been happy too

And I like these songs well enough, but I wouldn't buy a CD for them or even bother to illegally download them.

Todd: Well, that's the album. And we've got one funstyle song left, so let's check out the album closer, [shot of Funstyle tracklist] "U Hate It". Oh boy, I bet I do.

Audio for "U Hate It" plays over looped clip

Label Executive #1: Hey, so I got the new Liz track... Have you heard it? Did you like it?

Label Executive #2: No, I hate it.

Label Executive #1: You hated it?

Label Executive #2: I hate it.

Label Executive #1: Yah, you hated it, huh? I hated it.

Todd (VO): Jesus Christ, it's...

Todd: ...yet another song about her struggles to get the album released. And these record labels who just don't appreciate her.

Liz: Uh oh, you don't agree on it

Uh oh, I totally love it

Uh oh, I think I'm a genius

Uh oh, you're being a peñis

Colada, that is

Todd is so speechless, all he can do is stare with his mouth wide open

Liz: You're being a peñis

Colada, that is

Todd looks around for a bit before tapping his piano rapidly over the sound of a wrestling bell

Clip of WWE match between John Cena and Brock Lesnar

Announcer: It's all over! It is all over!

Todd: Okay, ignoring "penis colada", here's just a flat, neutral description of the entire song! [image of...] Two record executives talk about how much they hate Liz Phair's new material.

Label Executive #1: You know, I listened to it twice. The second time was worse.

Label Executive #2: On a scale of 1 to...

P.U., was the scale of...

Label Executive #1: Wow, so a 10 for...

We should open a window.

Todd (VO): They do this for nearly three minutes.

Todd: And then, we hear Liz giving an acceptance speech at some award show!

Audio for "U Hate It" continues playing over image of Liz Phair accepting an AMA award

Liz: Oh my God, oh my God!

I wanna thank ATO, and

Liz's voice becomes increasingly pitch-shifted

Who am I forgetting?

Oh, Jack Trott, and Dave Matthews! Dave Matthews, you're the best!

Todd (VO): And after that...

Todd: ...we hear the record executives now congratulating themselves for Liz's success and taking all the credit.

Label Executive #1: The demographic that we chose, I think, had a lot to do with it.

Label Executive #2: You know, I don't want to blow my own bugle, but uh... I knew this was coming.

Label Executive #1: I liked it a lot.

Todd: [nearly pulls hair out before stopping himself] This song is delusional!

Clip of Pitchfork interview

Todd (VO): It's her imagining that all those higher-ups that didn't get her vision are just gonna be eating shit when everyone gets to hear the record, and sees how great it is! It'll be the new Yankee Hotel Foxtrot! You empty suits just don't get it!


Todd (VO): The sad thing is that of the four funstyle tracks, "U Hate It" is the one that's the closest to good!

Liz: No wonder that you hate it, 'cause it's all about you

Funny you should say that, 'cause it hates you too

I actually like some of the musical ideas here. It's got that genre mix-and-match, sarcastic Frank Zappa energy to it.

Todd: I could maybe talk myself into liking it if it were about anything else!

Clip of live performance

Todd (VO): Like, you can make a case for this! Like, this album is kinda daring, right?! She said she had entirely intended to just throw everything out, and make Exile in Guyville 2 like the suits wanted. And then, she just couldn't bring herself to do it. She had to release the album that she believed in.

Todd: I...respect that. Other people have defended Funstyle, specifically for the comedy skit tracks.

Todd (VO): I do grant that those songs are certainly more enthusiastic than anything else she'd done in a while. Maybe it's just Stockholm syndrome, but...yeah. After some twenty listens, the album's whack-a-doo energy did start to grow on me a little.

Todd: The problem isn't that this record is silly or weird or not like the old Liz. The problem is that showbiz satires are the last refuge of the creatively spent!

Video for "And He Slayed Her"

Todd (VO): Way too much of the time, they come from people who've used up all their ideas except for the things right in front of their noses! And it just devolves into a tedious display of score-settling and inside jokes that no one can relate to!

Todd: It's an exercise for people who've been in the industry too long and need to take a long step away! Liz, my love, get out of the business!

Clip of Liz Phair interview on CBS This Morning

Todd (VO): Well, she kinda did. In that big note to the fans, she promised to keep sending postcards, but she hasn't released a record since. As far back as 2012, she said she was working on a new album. It was tentatively scheduled for release last summer, but...then the world descended into chaos and now it's looking more like next year. I guess we'll see.

Todd: And you know, this is a show about career enders.

Clip of yet another live performance

Todd (VO): Her last album came out ten years ago, and her last good album much earlier than that. That's more than long enough to call time on Liz Phair as an artist.

Todd: And yet...I would not at all be surprised if she had a late career comeback.

Todd (VO): Liz Phair commands even more respect now than she ever did. [shots of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" by...] Rolling Stone just released that updated Greatest Albums of All Time list. [...and Exile in Guyville showing up on said list at #56] Exile in Guyville ranked higher than Led Zeppelin IV. She is very much an inspiration to a ton of girls who came after her, and while everyone remembers the backlash to her pop album, [shot of article: "Music Critic Apologizes To Liz Phair After 16 Years"] that backlash has aged much worse than the record did.

Clip of Liz performing on 90.7 WFUV

Ten years is a long time to be working on an album, and everything about her last couple decades suggests a struggle for inspiration. But who knows? Maybe the long break has recharged her and given her some perspective. [clip of Fiona Apple performance] If you noticed, another chick rock veteran from the '90s just released her first album in almost a decade, and everyone went nuts over it!

Fiona Apple: Fetch the bolt cutters

Todd (VO): So maybe Liz has her own Fetch the Bolt Cutters brewing. In her memoir from last year, she writes that after Prince died, she started thinking about shoring up her own legacy and leaving things on a good note.

Todd: I hope she does. 'Cause right now, her final postcard to the world is a...

Audio for "Smoke" plays over clip of looped performance

Todd (VO): ...late period Kanye-style shitpost that felt like a giant middle finger.

Liz: Let's smoke all night, let's smoke all night

Todd: Pffft. Call this one, Exile from Tasteville.

Gets up and leaves

Liz: Let's smoke all night, let's smoke all night

You dummy!

Ending music: Todd plays "And He Slayed Her" on piano


"Funstyle" is owned by Rocket Science Records

This video is owned by me


Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.