Two and a half decades after its release, Liz Phair’s 18-track feminist manifesto, Exile in Guyville, remains a winner for two reasons: It gave voice to a generation of women tired of being dicked around by the patriarchy, and it offered up one of the filthiest songs ever recorded about dick (whether you think the best line of “Flower” is “I want to be your blow-job queen” or “I’ll fuck you and your minions too” says a lot about you). On the heels of the new box set Girly-Sound to Guyville: The 25th Anniversary, Phair discusses the legacy of her groundbreaking debut.
“It was born of desperation. I felt alienated. I was tired of being bullied by the tastemakers of the scene. I had no clue what I was doing, but I needed to enter the ring. I had a fire in my gut. I think of lot of Exile in Guyville’s resonance with queer fans has to do with the fact that I was basically working from the same impulse. There was a side of me I was obliged to hide: my sexuality, my hunger, my needs. But I decided to bring forth that stuff. I was flouting it. I was saying, ‘No, I’m not going to be ashamed, I’m not going to be quiet. I’m going to own my sexuality, speak about it proudly, and be funny about it.’ It was about fighting that sense that you have to compartmentalize yourself.
Exile shows that things don’t change quickly or permanently. Any time a marginalized or disenfranchised culture wants rights and a voice and a place at the table, it can be overturned. So I think the album is an inspiration — like, Look, she did this back then, when it was even more shocking. But at the same time, it’s like, Goddammit, let’s kill this dragon once and for all. None of the shocking parts are really that shocking anymore. What you have left in the songs is a loneliness, a determination, and a fire that’s relatable in any era.” — As told to Jason Lamphier