Exile in SIAOville, aka A Mike in Alaska

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/10/11 08:31 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2008/10/11/8991018.aspx


This blog is entirely off-topic and carries the same parental warning that Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville album already has, since that is where quoted lyrics are from....

There are friends of mine who think I am a huge fan of Aimee Mann, following her performances as often as I can.

That is probably true; Aimee is truly amazing.

But those people have probably never seen me spend any length of time at a Liz Phair performance! :-)

The first time I saw her was in September of 1993 at the Metro. I flew there, and it was worth it.

The setlist was the Exile In Guyville, which was easy enough to remember.

By the time that show happened (many months after I had bought the album and missed seeing her several times prior in New York and Michigan) I think I had the album pretty much memorized anyway.

I was less than 10 days before my 23rd birthday.

If memory serves, I knew everything.

If you've been 23 you probably know what I mean.

Recently diagnosed with MS (the first time) , even more recently divorced, recently kind of required to move out of my apartment so that my roommate and her partner could live together, it was an interesting time in my life.

And the album just resonated with me.

So, last night, just a little over 10 days after my 38th birthday, and fifteen years since Exile in Guyville, with Liz Phair in town playing in Seattle, I was ready to miss Obama and McCain fighting like little kids to see her playing again.

She was going to play the whole album, beginning to end.

She didn't, for what it's worth. But that's another story.

She starts of course, just as Exile did, with 6'1":

I bet you fall in bed too easily
With the beautiful girls who are shyly brave
And you sell yourself as a man to save
But all the money in the world is not enough

I bet you've long since passed understanding
What it takes to be satisfied
You're like a vine that keeps climbing higher
But all the money in the world is not enough
And all the bridges blown away keep floating up

Its cold
And rough
And I kept standing 6'1"
Instead of 5'2"
And I loved my life
And I hated you

After the song, she pauses to explain: "It is good to do this album again in its entirety, cause I kind of sucked at it the first time..."

That was awesome. It really was.

And everyone there is eating it up. No one who isn't there isn't completely there, if you know what I mean.

For all of those who didn't already know that she was gong to do just do the whole album? We all knew now...

If ever there was a time to gird one's loins, this would be it. Truly!

Then comes Help Me, Mary, and the words pour over me:

Help me Mary please.
I've lost my home to your thieves
They bully the stereo and drink
They leave suspicious things in the sink

They make rude remarks about me
They wonder just how wild I would be
As they egg me on and keep me mad
They play me like a pit bull in a basement, and for that

I lock my door at night
I keep my mouth shut tight
I practice all my moves
I memorize their stupid rules

I make myself their friend
I show them just how far I can bend
As they egg me on and keep me mad
They play me like a pit bull in a basement, and for that

I'm asking, will you, Mary, please
Temper my hatred with peace
Weave my disgust into fame
And watch how fast they run to the flame

I notice I am softly singing along with the lyrics.

Suddenly, I am happy that all of the people who would have otherwise gone with me had presidential debates to watch or classes to go to or hair to wash or bellybutton lint to remove or whatever.

This is like a fetish for me, and one should never share a fetish with someone if you'd like them to respect you. :-)

I notice a woman nearby me, her eyes half-closed, doing the same thing, mouthing the lyrics.

We both lock gazes and then quickly look away, self-consciously realize we're crazy, but we smile and don't stop.

Then comes Glory, the song that is Liz's poetry to the prose of my Alphabet Soup:

He's got a really big tongue
It rolls way out
Snaking around in the club
It slicks you down
Scratching his face like a bum
He pulls you back
Circa nineteen eighty-one
He pulls you back

You are, you are, shining some glory
You are, you are, shining some glory
On me, on me
You are, you are, shining some glory
You are, you are, shining some glory on me

She wins, hands down. Though I never would have guessed otherwise....

And then Dance of the Seven Veils.

My New Testament is kind of rusty, but I am pretty sure this is mainly a reference to the dance that Princess what's-her-name did to convince Kind Herod to behead John the Baptist.

Kind of an ironic twist, that:

Johhny my love, get out of the business
It makes me wanna rough you up so badly
Makes me wanna roll you up in plastic
Toss you up and pump you full of lead

Johhny my love, get out of the business
The odds are getting fatter by the minute
That I have got a bright and shiny platter
And I am gonna get your heavy head

I only ask because I'm a real cunt in spring
You can rent me by the hour
I know all about the ugly pilgrim thing
Entertainers bring May flowers

So Johnny my love
We got us a witness
Now all we gotta do is get a preacher
He can probably skip the "until death" part
'Cause Johnny my love you're already dead

I only ask because I'm a real cunt in spring
You can rent me by the hour
I know all about the ugly pilgrim thing
Entertainers bring May flowers

May flowers, May flowers, (To You) 

I remember when I was 23 being shocked that she said the word even though I knew it was there.

The only woman I have ever heard in real life who used the word without special emphasis or self-consciousness.

I was shocked then, and although I wasn't completely shocked this time, I suddenly realized that even 15 years later, no one since has been able to use the word the same way. At least not in front of me.

 I know I can't, either. I've never said it.

As if reading my mind, she sings Never Said:

I never said nothing
I never said nothing
I never said nothing
I never said nothing

I don't know where you heard it
Don't know who's spreadin' it 'round
All I know is I'm clean as a whistle baby
I didn't utter a sound

I never said nothing
I never said nothing
I never said nothing
I never said nothing

I don't know what they told you
Don't even care what about
All I know is I'm clean as a whistle baby
I didn't let the cat out

So don't look at me sideways
Don't even look me straight on
And don't worry I've got my hands in my pockets, baby
I ain't done anything wrong

I never said nothing
No baby, I never said nothing
I never said nothing
I never said nothing
I never said nothing
No, not to anyone
I never said nothing
I never said nothing
I never said nothing

Did I ever believe anyone who danced that dance and sang that song to me?

It almost begs disbelief and doubt.

And then it's Soap Star Joe, with an interesting allusion or two,= in it.

Like the Athena thing. It doesn't rally suggest th actual myth but yet somehow inspires it anyway:

He's just a hero
In a long line of heroes
Looking for something attractive to save
They say he rode in
On the back of a pickup
And he won't leave town
'til you remember his name

He's just a hero
In a long line of heroes
Looking for some lonely billboard to grace
They say he sprung from the skull of Athena
Think about your own head
And the headache he gave

He's just a hero
In a long line of heroes
Looking for action at a price he can pay
They say he's famous
But no one can prove it
Make him an offer just to see what he'll say

Check out the dashboard lights
Glowing all green and white
He feels safe in the dark
He wears his bluejeans tight

He's just a hero
In a long line of heroes
Looking for something attractive to save
They say he rode in
On the back of a pickup
And he won't leave town
'Til you remember his name

Check out the thinning hair
Check out the aftershave
Check out America
You're looking at it babe

I suddenly realize that I can't even feel the drinks I had only a short time ago.

There is nothing as sobering as this album -- each song is like a shot of White Lightning or something. Truly.

Can she explain why? Can she Explain It To Me?

Head underwater
Keeps getting hotter
Give 'em your medicine
Fame injection
Tell them to jump higher
Tell 'em to run farther
Make 'em measure up
Decades longer than you

Piece it together
It's like weather
Watch him travel
Kiss the gravel
Tell him to jump higher
Tell him to run farther
Make him measure up
Ten times longer than you
Ever should, you never could
Explain them to me, explain them to me

I guess she can!

Now in the interim I think I was reading one of those interviews where the song's inspiration was attributed to the notion of a rock star, past their prime and fading.

And then its Canary, a song which I will admit has always freaked me out more than a little bit.

Sometimes when I play the album, I skip past it. It has also never been in any playlist I've put together, either:

I learn my name
I write with a number two pencil
I work up to my potential
I earn my meat
I come when called
I jump when you circle the cherry
I sing like a good canary
I come when called
I come, that's all

Send it up on fire
Death before dawn
Send it up on fire
Death before dawn

I clean the house
I put all your books in an order
I make up a colorful border
I clean my mouth
'Cause froth comes out

Send it up on fire
Death before dawn
Send it up on fire
Death before dawn 

We aren't even halfway there and I am exhausted. She still looks like a million dollars.

 In fact she's Mesmerizing, coincidentally enough. Go figure?

This is a song that grabs me even though I honestly can't say why. I think it is the melody; the lyrics are unfathomable to me:

You said things I wouldn't say
Straight to my face, boy
You tossed the egg up
And I found my hands in place, boy
After backing up as far as you could get
Don't you know nobody parts two rivers met
Don't you know I'm very happy
You know me well
I'm even happier
I like it
I like it

With all of the time in the world to spend it
Wild and unwise
I wanna be mesmerizing too
Mesmerizing too
Mesmerizing to you

With all of the time in the world to spend it
Wild and unwise
I wanna be mesmerizing too
Mesmerizing too
Mesmerizing to you 

And she is. Mesmerizing, I mean.

I know what's coming next, but I really can't brace myself.

Suddenly we are there and she is singing Fuck and Run:

I woke up alarmed
I didn't know where I was at first
Just that I woke up in your arms
And almost immediately I felt sorry
'Cause I didn't think this would happen again
No matter what I could do or say
Just that I didn't think this would happen again
With or without my best intentions, and
What ever happened to a boyfriend
The kind of guy who tries to win you over, and
What ever happened to a boyfriend
The kind of guy who makes love cause he's in it, and

I want a boyfriend
I want a boyfriend
I want all that stupid old shit
Like letters and sodas
Letters and sodas

You got up out of bed
You said you had a lot of work to do
But I heard the rest in your head
And almost immediately I felt sorry
'Cause I didn't think this would happen again
No matter what I could do or say
Just that I didn't think this would happen again
With or without my best intentions, and

I want a boyfriend
I want a boyfriend
I want all that stupid old shit
Like letters and sodas
Letters and sodas

I can feel it in my bones
I'm gonna spend another year alone
It's fuck and run
Fuck and run
Even when I was seventeen
Fuck and run
Fuck and run
Even when I was twelve

You almost felt bad
You said that I should call you up but
I knew much better than that
And almost immediately I felt sorry
'Cause I didn't think this would happen again
No matter what I could do or say
Just that I didn't think this would happen again
With or without my best intentions

And I can feel it in my bones
I'm gonna spend my whole life alone
It's fuck and run
Fuck and run
Even when I was seventeen
Fuck and run
Fuck and run
Even when I was twelve 

 She said it. She really did.

No punches pulled, no apologies.

As brutal as truth gets.

Nor does she hold back in the next song, Girls! Girls! Girls:

You been around enough to know
That if I want to leave you better let me go
Because I take full advantage
Of every man I meet
I get away almost every day
With what the girls call
What the girls call
What the girls call
The girls call murder

You been around enough to see
That if you think you're it
You better check with me
Because I take full advantage
Of every man I meet
I get away almost every day
With what the girls call
What the girls call
What the girls call... the girls call murder

No apologies this time, either.

She knows she is in charge, and she's just letting 'em know.

I am reminded of my own divorce, which I have not really thought of that way for over a decade, as The Divorce Song plays.

And suddenly she is in not in charge anymore. The contrast between this song and the one preceding it is astounding:

And when I asked for a separate room
It was late at night
And we'd been driving since noon
But if I'd known
How that would sound to you
I would have stayed in your bed
For the rest of my life
Just to prove I was right
That it's harder to be friends than lovers
And you shouldn't try to mix the two
Cause if you do it and you're still unhappy
Then you know that the problem is you

And it's true that I stole your lighter
And it's also true that I lost the map
But when you said that I wasn't worth talking to
I had to take your word on that
But if you'd known
How that would sound to me
You would have taken it back
And boxed it up and buried it in the ground
Boxed it up and buried it in the ground
Boxed it up and buried it in the ground
Burned it up and thrown it away

You put in my hands a loaded gun
And then told me not to fire it
When you did the things you said were up to me
And then accused me of trying to fuck it up
But you've never been a waste of my time
It's never been a drag
So take a deep breath and count back from ten
And maybe you'll be alright

And the license said
You had to stick around until I was dead
But if you're tired of looking at my face I guess I already am
But you've never been a waste of my time
It's never been a drag
So take a deep breath and count back from ten
And maybe you'll be alright 

It's all so real. And vulnerable.

I have known people who were unable to listen to that song after their divorces, it was just too real.

As she stars to sing Shatter, the song that is the fantasy of many guys: the bad girl who never felt bad about it until she was with them and realized she wanted to be a better woman.

Doubtful that I have ever truly inspired that in a relationship, I can only watch her sing about it now:

I know that I don't always realize
How sleazy it is
Messing with these guys
But something about just being with you
Slapped me right in the face
Nearly broke me in two
It's a mark
I've taken hard
And I know I will carry with me for a long long time

I don't know if I could drive a car
Fast enough to get to where you are
or wild enough not to miss the boat completely
Honey, I'm thinking maybe
You know just maybe

I don't know if I could fly a plane
Well enough to tail spin out your name
Or high enough to lose control completely
Honey, I'm thinking maybe
You know just maybe, maybe

I almost do (shatter, I mean).

Liz has a lady come up on stage from the audience to do the higher, repeating part of Flower:

Every time I see your face
I get all wet between my legs
Every time you pass me by
I heave a sigh of pain

While this repeats, Liz does the main song and I mouth every word, amazed that I can still remember the words and ashamed that I am doing it where anyone can see:

Every time I see your face
I think of things not pure and chaste
I want to fuck you like a dog
I'll take you home and make you like it

Everything you ever wanted
Everything you ever thought of
Is everything I'll do to you
I'll fuck you and your girlfriend, too

Your face reminds me of a flower
Kind of like you're underwater
Hair's too long and in your eyes
Your lips a perfect "suck me" size

You act like you're 14 years old
Everything you say is so
Obnoxious, funny, true and mean
I want to be your blowjob queen

You're probably shy and introspective
That's not part of my objective
I just want your fresh young jimmy
Jamming, slamming, ramming in me

Every time I see your face
I think of things not pure and chaste
I want to fuck you like a dog
I'll take you home and make you like it

Everything you ever wanted
Everything you ever thought of
Is everything I'll do to you
I'll fuck you till your dick is blue
Every time

It is too late to be shocked, truly.

Even so that song makes everything that came before it seem like almost innocent. Which is quite a challenge!

And then, after all that, along comes Johnny Sunshine. He left anyway, it would seem - the one she was singing the previous song to. Like th first Aunt Peg scene out of Talk Dirty To Me, she just scared him off or something:

You took the car
It was my favorite one
Little white Dart
And drove it to Idaho
You took the horse
It was a thoroughbred
Saddled it up
Out on the interstate
You killed the cat
Put it in antifreeze
Dumped in the trunk
With the rest of the cattlefeed
You took the house
You went and changed the locks
Now I am stuck
Living out of a box

I think I've been taken
For everything I own
I've been hurt so badly
I'm alone, baby, I'm alone

You left me nothing
You left me nothing
Johnny Sunshine
You left me nothing
You left me nothing

Throughout, everyone has been cheering.

Though at some point she asked the crowd -- is there anyone else here who hasn't really been listening all the way through to the backside of the album, all these years?

No one cheered that time. Who could skip the end? :-)

I think I would be Gunshy too on this point, though with the exception of the one song I mentioned above that I often intentionally skipped, the other were all okay to hear:

Rifle in hand and two in the bush
Three count delay, I may need a little push
Take out the garbage on Tuesday nights
Seems like the small things
Are the only things I'll fight
Seems like the small things
Are the only things I'll fight

Gunshy, Gunshy, Gunshy, Gunshy

See monkeys, do monkeys
Story of my life
Send three bucks to a comic book
Get a house, car and wife
Send three bucks to a comic book
Get a house, car and wife

Thinking back I remembered that some people would read the lyrics as "sea monkeys, do monkeys" which did not make very much sense to me.

If I hadn't known, perhaps I'd be happier, but I know the answer even as Stratford-On-Guy:

I was flying into Chicago at night
Watching the lake turn the sky into blue-green smoke
The sun was setting to the left of the plane
And the cabin was filled with an unearthly glow
In 27-D I was behind the wing
Watching landscape roll out
Like credits on a screen
The earth looked like it was lit from within
Like a poorly assembled electrical ball as we moved
Out of the farmlands into the grid
The plan of the city was all that you saw
And all of these people sitting totally still
As the ground raced beneath them thirty thousand feet down

It took an hour, maybe a day
But once I really listened, the noise
Just went away

And I was pretending that I was in a Galaxie 500 video
The stewardess came back and checked on my drink
In the last strings of sunlight, a Bridgette Bardot
There's a hat on my headphones
Along with those eyes that you get
When your circumstance is movie size

It took an hour, maybe a day
But once I really listened, the noise
Just went away

It took an hour, maybe a day
But once I really listened, the noise
Just went away 

Some of the best lines ever in that one, and of course now most people won't even know what they mean.

It's like being in a secret with millions and millions of Liz Phair's closest friends or something.

Only one song left, before the Strange Loop of this night moves to wrap up.

With a song that is about a relationship, with a breakup dissecting in the middle.

I am wondering if we ever really do go from happy to not this fast:

The fire you like so much in me
Is the mark of someone adamantly free
But you can't stop yourself from wanting worse
'Cause nothing feeds a hunger like a thirst

Baby I'm tired of fighting
I always wanted you
I broke up at the roadhouse
I wouldn't know you were alive
You haven't seen me for weeks now
It wouldn't shock you if
I drove right out through the back of your eyes
I can't be trusted
They're saying I can't be true
But I only wanted more than I knew

Baby I'm tired of fighting
I always wanted you
I only wanted more than I knew

Now it is over.

And it is not even 11pm yet I find myself exhausted.

I feel like I have just had 18 string drinks, and I wonder how I could possibly have sat there for the whole show.

She comes out to do a few songs for the encore.

They aren't from the three that were added to the Exile reissue, where are:

Thanks to the miracle of the Zune store I just bought the three tracks, I played them on the way home on the second-last 545 of the evening.

But to be honest I can't remember what they were. I was too wiped out from the show....

There is only one thing I know for sure -- I wasn't just remembering how I felt 15 years ago when I was 23.

For a little while there, I was 23 again. And all that implies....

 

This blog brought to you by(U+2496, aka NUMBER FIFTEEN FULL STOP)


Michael S. Kaplan on 16 Oct 2008 12:19 PM:

Looks like the spam filter ate Ron's comment, so I'm reposting it here now:

I just wanted to let you know, in case you didn't already, that NPR's All Songs Considered podcast has an entire performance from that tour, followed by an interview:

http://www.npr.org/rss/podcast.php?id=510253

Very cool! :-)


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