Rereleases beg for reevaluation, and one question in particular gnaws at the listener: How does the record stand up over time? It’s been 15 years since Matador unleashed Liz Phair’s debut, Exile in Guyville, an album that fans praise as inspiring and empowering, while nonbelievers denounce it as pure shock and schlock. Critics hailed Guyville’s brazen lyrics: Songs like “Dance of the Seven Veils,” “Flower” and, of course, “Fuck and Run” reveled in postadolescent female sexuality, often self-destructively. Her sexual provocations drew a flood of attention, not least from liberal arts majors throughout the nation.
For those of us who weren’t hanging out at the Rainbo Club circa ’93, there’s Guyville Redux—an hour-long DVD accompanying the reissue. We learn that the aspiring “starving” artist from Winnetka bummed beer change off Urge Overkill and swiftly spun her homemade Girly Sound cassettes into a deal with venerable indie Matador Records. Liz confesses that the album was written for UO’s Nash Kato, on whom she had a long-standing (unrequited) crush. Kato convinced her to go topless for the infamous session in the ’Bo’s photo booth, immortalized on the Guyville cover.
Four unreleased, tacked-on bonus tracks from the Guyville sessions spoil the album’s namesake and conceit (a song-by-song reply to the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St). But if Guyville meant something to you the first time around, then it’s likely to be a nostalgic roadtrip. If you find the sight of John Cusack cooing to Phair charming, rather than nauseating, then the album is worth purchasing for the insightful DVD alone.