- 16 Jun 21
Polished seventh album from genre-defining ‘90s singer.
Twenty-eight years after her debut album, Exile In Guyville, set indie pulses racing, ’90s singer-songwriter superstar Liz Phair sounds more polished than ever. Her first album in 11 years, Soberish has more in common with the pop chops of her eponymous 2003 release than the edgier tunes that went before.
Some of it is great. Recent single ‘Spanish Doors’ is toe-tappingly breezy pop, with a distinctly sun-kissed Californian glow and an uber-infectious chorus. The brilliant sheen of ‘Hey Lou’ is at odds with the darkness of the lyrics, as she contemplates losing so many friends to addiction, via some ’60s-esque call-and-response vocals. ‘Ba Ba Ba’ is catchy but not nearly as throwaway as the title would suggest, and ‘Lonely Street’ is classic singer-songwriter Phair.
She still knows her way round a knockout lyrical couplet too, such as the opening lines of ‘Good Side’ – “There’s so many ways to fuck up a life/ I try to be original” – although ‘Bad Kitty’, an ode to her nether regions, is arguably a metaphor too far. The title-track is about indulging in some Dutch courage to settle the nerves before a date, while ‘Dosage’ conversely warns a would-be paramour to learn to control their indulgences.
On occasion, Soberish careers through genres a little too clunkily. The syncopated rhythms of ‘In There’ feel like a none-too-subtle play for the millennial market, while the slinky ‘Soul Sucker’ veers very close to R&B territory, but only half-succeeds. Even when she plays it straight, it’s not always amazing; it’s impossible to hate the warm and fuzzy, Byrds-ean jangle of ‘The Game’, but it doesn’t live long in the memory either.
As comebacks go, Soberish is something of a mixed bag.