Liz Phair & The Stones: Exile On Guyville Street (1972/1993)

I was listening to the Rolling Stones' 1972 masterpiece Exile on Main Street yesterday (alongside Sticky Fingers), and it reminded me of a project I've been meaning to try. For about 27 years.

Liz Phair has long described her groundbreaking 1993 debut Exile in Guyville as a sort of song-by-song response to the Stones' opus, both lyrically and musically. (She gave a breakdown of each track in a Rolling Stone interview [the magazine, not the band] at the time of Guyville's 2018 25th anniversary reissue.)

Now, that's a pretty ballsy move for a debut album by a new, relatively unknown artist; but Phair has always been an extremely ballsy artist, so good on her. Of course, Guyville stands up as a unique, fascinating work completely independent of its mythology; one needn't probe the reference to Main Street to enjoy the record on its own merits.

Still, I've always been a little curious. I've taken it on faith that there is a linearity between the two albums, but I've never actually put that to the test.

So I made a mix, bouncing back and forth, and sure enough it totally holds up. Kinda like playing Dark Side of the Moon during The Wizard of Oz, I suppose. Obviously, there are some pretty stark contrasts between the Stones' macho, boozy, fetid swagger and Phair's manifesto of empowered yet vulnerable young women, matching the Stones' traditionalism and spirituality and male bravado with inner strength and observational character sketches; and the Stones' ragged yet virtuoso performances both counterbalance and complement Phair's casually experimental guitar phrasings. Yet some sparks fly in the pairings, inadvertent overlaps between sentiments and guitar tones and snare snaps.

To fit the mix onto a single CD, given that both Exiles are double-LPs, I winnowed out about a third of the songs. But I retained the running order and pairings, making only one substitution (plugging in "Turd On The Run" for "Ventilator Blues" as the prompt for Liz's "Divorce Song," as I think "Turd" works better both musically and thematically). Otherwise, it's the call-and-response as intended by Phair, albeit abbreviated.
Personally, I think it sounds awesome as a unified album, but see what you think.

Comments

  1. It's awesome that you put this mix together! I'm really looking forward to listening to this. I've also meant to do something like this forever to see how the albums compliment and bounce off of each other.

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