Kent Szadowski’s letter [March 25] was something akin to a bored mainstream music fan laboring under the mistaken impression that the public wants to know everything about his problem with a critically acclaimed album.
I applaud Kent for giving us his review of Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville. I’m glad he wasn’t swayed by the “nine month long barrage of critical tongue jobs and features in nearly every national publication.” It shows he thinks for himself.
However, I must come to the defense of Phair and her album because it happens to be a great record and, well, Kent wouldn’t know a great record “if it crawled up [his] ass.”
What makes Phair’s album great (and I make my judgment after being impressed first by her live performance, even though that evening I seemed to be in the minority) is its straightforward honesty and Phair’s ability to use her imagination where she may lack experience. Guyville is the fresh and exciting story of a woman watching a typical cock rock fable unfold. It’s an album I made an emotional connection with. And Kent, no amount of critical intellectualizing and appeals to my mind can change my opinion since that emotional connection has been made.
Apparently, some connection has also been made with the record buying public. Kent quotes Bill Wyman’s 24,000 sold figure (which I remember hearing last fall) as enough to get most acts dropped from “any decent sized label.” Exactly. Any decent sized major label. I called Matador Records (an independent label) and was quoted the latest SoundScan count (93,391) which, of course, is about 50 percent shy of the actual total (Matador’s words) given the fact that not all record stores use SoundScan. Unless you have stock in a record label, I’d say mega sales don’t make a great record, great songs do.
To Kent’s ears the music on Guyville sounds “thin and atonal.” To my ears so does an out of tune Strat, but that doesn’t make it a bad guitar. And, “the sound of the disc is awful” because of Brad Wood’s “nonexistent” production. I think the production fits the vision of the songs. Sometimes haunting, other times with a powerful sneer. Kent, grand scale production doesn’t make a great record, great songs do. But, you’re entitled to your opinion.
Since you think the album is “no good” after “repeated listenings,” I say, take solace. There are plenty of used disc stores in our little Lakeview community that will gladly take Exile in Guyville off your hands. You might even be able to use it to purchase a more critically panned disc with a big name, existent producer.