Liz Phair, whitechocolatespaceegg
It’s hard to describe the sort of guarded enthusiasm with which I approached Liz’s 1998 album. After all, four years without a record is not a good way to convince your fans that you know what you’re doing. Also, Liz had a kid in the off-time. I knew that was the end of blow-job songs. whitechocolatespaceegg is not like her first two albums which were identical in production and almost identical in song themes, but even a year and a half later it is still quietly compelling. I was pleasantly surprised when I put the album on recently and was drawn into the big chorus of “whitechocolatespaceegg:” “I’LL SEE YOU AROUND. Every hollow has its favourite sound.”
The biggest change for whitechocolatespaceegg is that Liz concentrated on becoming a Song-Writer. You can almost hear the song-writerly choices she makes: third-person narratives, careful song structure. But throughout she deconstructs the writer-ly choices she makes which adds a depth and charm to the songs.
When I first heard whitechocolatespaceegg I thought the filler to keeper ratio was extremely high and I bemoaned the fact that Liz just wasn’t happy with a 10 song album. She could have chopped out 6 songs easily and had a virtually flawless album. The truth is that now, I am strangely attached to certain songs that I would have tossed out two years ago. “Uncle Alvarez” is a fine example. A soft song with a classic bridge. Most stunning is the song “Headache” which is propelled at a slow but even pace by a keyboard riff and features all the classic Liz hallmarks: obscure but catchy lyrics, barely wavering melody sung in her deep baritone and memorable chorus. Most charming of all, Liz flubs the lyrics in the middle (intentionally?) and improvises “nnnaaa nnaa nnaaa nnnaa nnaa.”
whitechocolatespaceegg may be quite “adult” for the woman who sang about fucking like a volcano, but she was always singing about mature themes; she just took her time to mature the music as well. It might not have the rocking that her previous efforts did but it does have several fine songs and “headache” which I would rank as her best ever.