Song 89: Liz Phair, “Fuck and Run” (1993)

exile-in-guyville

The idea that Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville is a song-by-song response to the Stones’ Exile on Main Street has been repeated ad nauseum, but the description doesn’t really hold. Both albums have 18 tracks, and there are definitely parallels, but I’ll be damned if I can find a direct correlation between, say, “Never Said” and “Tumbling Dice,” both the fifth songs of their respective albums.

Instead, Exile in Guyville a response to the world that Exile on Main Street inhabited, perpetuated, and certainly had a hand in creating; the concept of being stuck in a world, a Guyville, with guy mentalities. What makes Guyville so fascinating is that it’s not just a criticism of Guyville (though it certainly is that, and an effective one), but also a depiction of what it’s like to live there as a woman, and as different women. Phair has also said in interviews that these songs aren’t based on things she did, so it’s interesting to consider Guyville as a series of short stories about characters who are stuck in a lousy town with no option of moving.

I love Guyville as a whole, but “Fuck and Run” is the one I always come back to. There’s something so visceral about it, which partly comes from the arrangement (the song features only a guitar, drums and vocals), but also Phair’s raw description of the one-night stand, the latest of many. It’s a surprising song in many ways. There’s plenty of bitterness directed at the guy, but some at herself as well. And the admission that she wants “a boyfriend” and “letters and sodas” seems unlikely at first, but then it makes sense: At least in the old days, she seems to be saying, guys at least pretended to give a shit.

Phair put out a couple of good records after this one, and it’s too bad that those records (especially the criminally underappreciated Whitechocolatespaceegg) don’t get more attention. But Exile in Guyvile deserves all the attention it’s gotten over the years, and it stands as an important document for both feminism and indie rock.

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